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South Africa: RIP Lucky Dube

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Oct 30, 2007 (071030)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"The tragic death [of Lucky Dube] shocked reggae adherents across the continent. Since the news of his death was announced on Friday, his legion of fans in The Gambia and abroad, jammed radio stations and media houses, with calls expressing shock and dismay at the violent killing of their hero. ... [he sang] many crime related songs and has died by the crime that he helped to fight, through music." - Daily Observer, Banjul

South African and world-renowned reggae star Lucky Dube was shot dead in front of two of his children in an attempted carjacking on October 18. Dube, who began his singing career under the apartheid regime, eloquently expressed opposition to injustice and the cry for peace throughout his short career, cut short at the age of 43.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin continues a variety of tributes and background on the popular singer, from his website, from, and from other sources. The quote cited above comes from an article in the Gambian Daily Observer, available on . Additional tributes, along with lyrics and audio clips from some of his songs, are also available on many other websites. Selected clips are available for listening on, and selected tracks can be downloaded for $0.99 each.

Mourning Lucky Dube
The Daily Observer (Banjul, Gambia)

Tribute by Reggae-Vives

No Easy Victories

20% discount on orders from extended until November 15. Order now! Book is not yet available in bookstores or through large on-line distributors. Available now from and

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++

RIP Lucky Phillip Dube (1964-2007)

Lucky Phillip Dube (August 3, 1964-October 18, 2007)

"A lot of people were thinking that once we had this black government, everything would be fine. Maybe we were only fighting the past government because it was a white government. But that's not the case with me. I was just fighting the system. It's the same now. If there's injustice or any sort of nonsense toward the people, I sing about that." - Lucky Dube, 2000

The South African reggae musician, Lucky Dube, has been shot dead in the commercial capital, Johannesburg.

A police spokeswoman said the artist was dropping his son off in the suburb of Rosettenville on Thursday evening when he was attacked by armed robbers. His son was already out of the car when he saw what happened, and then ran for help, Capt Cheryl Engelbrecht added.

One of South Africa's most popular artists, Lucky Dube toured the world singing about social problems. Lucky Dube began his career by singing mbaqanga (traditional Zulu) music and recorded his first album with the Super Soul band in 1982.

He later moved into reggae, producing Rastas Never Die and Think About The Children in 1984. His albums, Slave, Prisoner and Together As One saw him gain first national and then global recognition.

Lucky Dube released his 21st and most recent album, Respect, in April.

Lucky Dube's Record Label, Gallo, Mourns His Tragic Loss

The staff of Gallo Record Company are devastated by the news of the tragic passing of reggae legend Lucky Dube. Lucky was slain in an attempted hijacking in Rosettenville in Johannesburg last night, at approximately 8pm, whilst dropping off his children at a family members house.

Although Lucky attempted to escape the scene, he had been fatally wounded from the hijacker's attempt to steal his motor vehicle, and he died almost instantly. Senseless and random, the death of Lucky Dube leaves a great void in the music industry, as 25 years of music suddenly ends in tragedy.

South African born but globally revered, Lucky Dube was one of the country's most toured and beloved artists ever. His music touched millions around the world, primarily through his 22 recorded albums - in Zulu, English and even Afrikaans - many of which have been record breakers with phenomenal sales from around the globe.

As a frontline artist in the reggae genre, Lucky's creativity and inventiveness kept growing. Compelling in his musicianship and intriguing in his lyrical content, Lucky's sonic daring to take his genre to new heights never failed to amaze even the most ardent fans, whilst reigning in new devotees to his magic every day.

His energetic band toured with him from continent to continent as South African musical ambassadors, and his live performances have earned him fans and accolades the world over.

Lucky joined Teal Records (later to become Gallo) as a fresh-faced young Mbaqanga singer in 1982. Five albums later he found a genre that spoke to his soul and changed the way he viewed the world. This genre was Reggae.

With his long-time sound engineer and best friend Dave Segal, he created some of the most legendary pieces of reggae music ever recorded, including the tracks Prisoner, Taxman, Slave, Victims, Together As One and Respect - all social anthems that garnered him the adoration of the people of his country - and across the globe. Lucky was an artist who continued to break international barriers and recently just signed a deal with Warner Music International, securing him album releases across Europe of his latest album Respect.

Ivor J. Haarburger, CEO of Gallo Music Group is deeply saddened by the loss. "Lucky was not just an extraordinary artist, he was a personal friend. We go back over twenty years and had both a business and personal relationship. It's so sad to lose such a great friend and so tragically, why?"

There are very few words that capture the magnitude of this devastating loss. As a musician, father and colleague, Lucky was one of the most charming, respected, selfless and dedicated people to have lived. He will be sorely missed.

Lucky Dube was survived by his new wife Zanele and his 7 children Bongi, Nonkululeko, Thokozani, Laura, Siyanda, Philani and his brand new three-month old baby Melokuhle.

Should you wish to send a message of condolence to Lucky's family, please email or fax on +27 (0) 11 340 9471


[Short audio clip at]

When you flash that badge
You want everyone to shiver
When you flash that badge
You want everyone to worship you
I got no time to worship human kind
I only worship the All Mighty
Through his prophets I have learned
To give respect to everything he created
I give love to those who gimme love
Love those who gimme war.
I love those who hate me
I bless even those who curse me yeah x 2

Gimme gimme respect
Show me show me show me respect.

You could be the president
You could be his deputy
You don't even have to know
My political affiliation
You don't even have to know
My religious affiliation
Respect me, for who I am
And not what I am
Nobody even cares about your dollars
Nobody even cares about your bling bling

Five love to those who give you love
Love to those who give you war.
Love those who hate you
Bless even those who curse you, yeah x 2

Gimme Gimme respect
Show me show me respect

Chorus till fade.


Lucky Dube has been hailed as 'The shining star of African reggae ( and 'South Africa's biggest selling contemporary artist' (Mail & Guardian). However, he isn't merely this, he's a modern day hero with a message that has touched millions of people's hearts around the world. With an incredible 21 albums under his musical belt, he has proved himself one of not only South Africa's, but also the world's greatest reggae superstars. A man with superb musical taste and genius, an artist with a message, with a reason and a rhyme behind everything he does.

As one can judge by listening to his music, he has a message on every album. His songs are based on three main things - political issues, social issues and personal issues - things that play an important role in everyone's lives. When asked what inspires him (Lucky), he humbly notes - 'People! Looking at people, watching people's movements, the things they do. My songs are based on real life situations and experiences.'

From the release of his first reggae album in 1984, to his present superstar status today, Lucky has maintained the humble nature that brings him closer to the people that so inspire his music. He has toured the world more times over than anyone could dream of and shared stages with names such as Maxi Priest, Sinead O-Connor, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Seal, Ziggy Marley, Celine Dion, Sting and many, many others. He has raked in over 20 local and international awards for his music and videos, yet as a person he is unaffected by his success. Still living in the country that gave him birth, he records with his original sound engineer and belongs to the same record comany. A true gentleman, Lucky's down-to-earth nature is one of his finest qualities.

His music is riddled with the desire to make the world a better place.

Massive hits such as Taxman, Prisoner, The Way It Is, Victims, Trinity and many others have catapulted him into the homes and hearts of people all over the world. He sees through the ridiculous, the injustices, the everyday problems we all have to deal with as human beings, and slices through to the heart of it. His incredible repertoire is a cornucopia of mixed emotions, questioning attitudes and a simple love of a good melody and a good vibe.

Finding Reggae

Lucky Philip Dube was born on the 3rd of August in 1964. After a few failed pregnancy attempts by his mother Sarah, Lucky came into the world. Giving birth to a boy was considered a blessing and his mother considered his birth so fortunate that she aptly named him 'Lucky'. His birth took place on a small farm outside the town of Ermelo, a dry, unspectacular area some 150 kilometers west of Johannesburg. Born into a single parent family, times were tough for a black boy born into poverty and with the Group Areas Act and the Pass Laws of the time, many families relocation was restricted, therefore children grew up not knowing their fathers at all, as they were often forced to leave home to find work in the cities.

Lucky's parents had separated before he was born. His mother was the only bread winner in the family and was forced to relocate to find work, leaving Lucky and his siblings Thandi and Patrick to be cared for by his grandmother. Unfortunately for Sarah, work was scarce and survival became her objective as she took a job as a domestic worker, barely able to send money home for her children.

With a father who drank heavily, Lucky is somewhat relieved he did not get to know his father when he was younger as he is certain it would have influenced him and swayed his career. To this day Lucky has only been drunk once, as a young boy, after being tricked at a party. So awful was the experience that he now swears off alcohol, cigarettes and drugs completely.

Lucky began working at the age most western children enter school. He worked for a few years before joining a school himself out of neccessity to provide for the family. He began by working in gardens around the white suburbs in the town.

Although a clearly under-priviledged child and despite being taught in Afrikaans, Lucky excelled at school and although his situation at home was dire, he started finding a new reason to attend school - music. As part of the choir, he was a natural performer and when the choir master walked out of their practise one day, Lucky was forced to take on the role as the choir leader, even being placed third in an inter-school competition, something that had never happened to the choir before. His popularity amongst his teachers and peers grew dramatically and Lucky was now finding school to a safe haven in his life.

By chance one day Lucky stumbled across some musical instruments at school in a cupboard and his curiosity was piqued. He and some friends decided to start experimenting and before long they had arranged times to meet and 'borrow' the instruments. The formed what was to be Lucky's first official band - The Skyway Band, and genuinely believed that they would find stardom. Unfortunately that all fell apart when they were discovered playing the instruments by a teacher who locked the instruments away from then on.

But Lucky was now 18 years old, and although still in school due to starting late, he had found his passion.

Early Recordings

1982 was to become an important year in Lucky's life. He was 18 years old and still in school. Nevertheless, it was then he joined his first real band. His cousin Richard Siluma had formed a band called 'The Love Brothers' and when Lucky arrived in Newcastle where Richard lived, he wanted to join them. Lucky had already formed a reputation as a strong singer and the group allowed him to join. They began touring around the district playing community events and school halls. The Love Brothers played a traditional Zulu music known as Mbaqanga, and this genre was to become Lucky's future for a while. It is also one of the most influencial musical styles in South Africa, blending uptempo rhythms with social commentary. Two of the more famous Mbaqanga groups are the Soul Brothers and Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens - both musical ambassadors for South Africa.

Richard Siluma had taken a job packing the warehouse of the record company Teal Records. Through hard work he moved through the ranks from driver to sales representative to eventually record producer. He then turned his attention towards the band he had originally formed - The Love Brothers.

They got together with the view to record and Lucky signed with Teal Records, which later became Gallo Record Comany - which to this day is still his record company.

The album was recorded during Lucky's school holidays and Lucky made his first trip to Johannesburg to begin working on it. The album, although recorded with The Love Brothers, was released as 'Lucky Dube and The Supersoul' and Richard produced the record. Lucky was the lead singer but did not write any of the material on that first record.

The second album came soon afterwards and Lucky was far more involved with the writing. It lead to a increase in record sales and Lucky began to earn some decent money. By his third album he could actually afford to purchase some instruments as well as a recording desk. Already the sales figures were beginning to hit gold status and people had begun to notice him. His mother showed great concerns for the uncertainty of a life made of music and Lucky swore to complete school. He also made the important decision to learn English in order to handle the record executives and media with more confidence. His fourth album was now released and Lucky was beginning to save some money, looking to the prospect of moving out of home.

Moving into Reggae

It was around the time of his fifth Mbaqanga album that Lucky met Dave Segal. Dave was to become his long-time engineer, recording every one of Lucky's albums in the future. Dave and Lucky formed a working relationship that has never been rivalled. Richard had started concentrating solely on Lucky's career and dropped the 'Supersoul' element of the name. All albums were now being recorded purely as 'Lucky Dube' and all the focus was going Lucky's way.

His performances were getting more recognition as well. His dance moves were really something spectacular and his ability to get the crowd going made him a sought-after performer.

One of the highlights of Lucky's performances seemed to be the reggae tracks he would perform - 'Reggae Man' and 'City Life'. Initially only slowly introducing them into a set, it soon became apparent that the crowds were more responsive to these songs. Lucky and Richard decided it was time to record a full album of reggae songs and judge the response to that. What started there set Lucky's career as we all know it in motion.

Lucky had been listening to much reggae at the time. The lyrics particularly intrigued him as they were social messages aimed at the struggle of the black man, whilst still maintaining a commercial sound. Lucky felt it was the perfect medium for the South African political situation.

The team that was Lucky, Richard and Dave went into the studio and began work on their first reggae release - 4 tracks later, the mini-album 'Rastas Never Die' was ready. Lucky had played all the instruments himself with only Dave using studio effects to back him up. The record was released - and it completely bombed, only selling on average 4 000 units when his Mbaqanga records were peaking around 30 000 units.

The record company was not happy about the reggae idea to begin with, and now they had even more reason to keep Lucky singing in his familiar style. However, Lucky was not discouraged. He continued to perform his reggae tracks, and started writing more, slowly introducing them to his live sets. What happened was the public slowly started to associate him more and more with this new sound, and audiences that understood English grew particularly fond of the reggae songs.

It was time for Lucky to try again. The record company were adamant that he should record another Zulu record but when he emerged from the studio, his second reggae album was complete. The album was called 'Think About The Children' and went on to be the breakthrough record that would establish him as one of South Africa's biggest stars. The record continues to sell to this day and has reached more than platinum status in South Africa alone.

And that was how the legend Lucky Dube was created. Through his countless sensational reggae albums, Lucky went on to build himself into one of the biggest names in South African music.

Crime and Corruption [Lyrics - Lucky Dube, 1999]

Do you ever worry
About your car being taken away from you
In broad daylight
Down highway 54
Do you ever worry
About your wife becoming
The woman in black
Do you ever worry
About leaving home and
Coming back in a coffin
With a bullet through your head
So join us and fight this.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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