I read the news today – oh boy…

LuckyThe news came on the ticker tape scrolling across the bottom of the screen on tonight’s BBC news. South African reggae singer Lucky Dube has been shot.

Here’s part of the story that ran in the International Herald Tribune:

Lucky Dube, South African reggae star, is killed in carjacking

Friday, October 19, 2007

JOHANNESBURG: A team of gunmen shot and killed Lucky Dube, an international reggae star and one of South Africa’s best-known musicians, in an apparent carjacking attempt late Thursday that underscored the continuing peril of violent crime here.

Dube, 43, what shot by three hijackers in Rosettenville, just south of downtown Johannesburg, as he dropped off his teenage son at his brother’s house. Another child, a 16-year-old daughter, was in the car at the time, the police said.

The hijackers fled after Dube crashed his car into a tree. He died at the scene.

As the provincial police commissioner appointed seven veteran investigators to chase down the attackers, President Thabo Mbeki called on the nation “to confront this terrible scourge of crime, which has taken the lives of too many of our people, and does so every day.”

The principal opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said that “the circumstances surrounding his murder again illustrate that violent crime in South Africa is out of control, and that the government’s remedies to address this scourge have failed.”

On Friday, Dube’s Web site, www.luckydubemusic.com, said that his death “leaves a great void in the music industry as 25 years of music suddenly ends in tragedy.”

Dube began as a singer of traditional African songs, but swept to international stardom in the 1980s when he began singing reggae. He recorded 22 albums during his career.

He is survived by a wife and seven children.


I met Lucky years ago when Carol Bruno brought him to the Mateel for a concert, then again when he performed at Reggae on the River. What follows is an interview I did with him at the Mateel:

from Rhythmic Review – a Humboldt County Entertainment Monthly
By Bob Doran

Among the stars at this year’s Reggae on the River is South African reggae master Lucky Dube making his third visit to the river as part of a tour in support of his new album Taxman. I spoke with Lucky on the sunny patio of Redway’s Mateel Community Center before his last performance there.

We began by talking about his early life growing up in Ermelo, South Africa, a small town he described as “dull.” He had a hard life growing up. His father “ran off” before he was born. His mother was in Johannesburg and he lived with his grandmother, a domestic worker. After singing in school and church choirs, he began his professional music career in 1979 performing “mbaqanga” which he calls “Zulu soul music.” He was very successful in the popular style and had a number of gold records, but it was with reggae that he made his mark and found an international audience.

Lucky Dube: I can say I was born a musician. I was always listening to music on the radio, every kind of music but especially rock and roll. I loved to sing and when I started doing music, it was in church choirs and in school choirs.

How did you decide to make music your career?

Maybe it was something I wanted to do from the beginning, even though it was an unknown thing in our family, a totally new thing. In the black community when you talk about music as a career, it sounds strange and terrible. No parent really wants to encourage that. But I chose music. It got me in trouble with my mother. She wanted a doctor or a lawyer in the family. When she heard that I wanted to do music as a career that wasn’t her idea of a future for me.

When did you first hear reggae?

When I was about 12, I heard Jimmy Cliff and of course a little bit of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, but not very much because their music was not very popular with the government in South Africa and hearing the music was a bit difficult.

Why do you think the government didn’t want you to hear reggae?

It was because of the message in the music. The message became a threat to the South African government.

What message?

The message stand up and fight for your rights, and the whole idea of making people aware of injustice. The government did not want people to be aware that such ideas exist. If they found you with a reggae tape they would confiscate the tape, kick the hell out of you, or even take you to jail for six months or a year or something. People did not want to take that risk of having a tape like that in their possession. They wanted us to think the life there was the same as life everywhere in the world.

When you were singing mbaqanga, what issues did the songs deal with?

It was mostly love songs and talking about family issues.

When you started singing reggae what was the response in South Africa?

Very negative. People didn’t like it. The mbaqanga stuff I was doing was very very popular, so they were saying, “What’s he doing now?” I was going to a totally different thing that was only known to be Jamaican. It was difficult for people to accept. Even the record company was angry. They did not promote the album, they were totally against it.

How did that resistance change?

It changed because I did not stop after that first album and say, “I won’t do it again”. I was touring with my mbaqanga stuff and in the middle I would throw in maybe one or two reggae songs. Eventually people started getting interested in this new style I was doing. It was in 1987 when I made the album Slave, that was the one that was very very big. That changed things a lot, even the radio stations started playing it and they started playing a hell of a lot of reggae music. There was a reggae buzz. The whole country just became reggae wise.

Now you have taken your music beyond South Africa to an international audience. Does that change the way you write your songs?

In a way yes. Before my success with Slave, the only experience I had was the South African experience, so those songs were written just for South Africa. After that when I started touring, all the songs were written with the world in mind.

In one of your songs you speak of “chanting down Babylon.” Do you think music has that power?

Music has that power because music is not like politicians. Music is always there. Politicians come in every four or five years, lie to the people, get what they want at that time, and disappear, but music is there every time. It can change the world.



  1. “Bob Marley said

    How long shall they kill our prophets

    While we stand aside and look

    Little did he know that eventually

    The enemy will stand aside and look

    While we slash and kill our own brothers

    Knowing that already they are the victims of the situation”

    Lucky Dube, Victims


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