Lucky Dube - Shining Star of African Reggae
Lucky Philip Dube (pronounced: doo-bay) was born in Ermelo, then in the Eastern Transvaal, now Mpumalanga, a province of South Africa, on August 3, 1964. His parents separated before his birth and he was raised by his mother, Sarah, who named him "Lucky" because she considered his birth fortunate after a number of failed pregnancies.
Dube is a town area in Johannesburg. As with many African families during the apartheid era in South Africa, Dube grew up in poverty in a hostile and racially prejudiced society. Along with his two siblings, Thandi and Patrick, he spent much of his troubled, underprivileged childhood with his grandmother and uncle, while his mother relocated for work.
As a child Dube worked as a gardener but, realizing that he wasn't earning enough to feed his family, he began to attend school. There he joined a choir and, with some friends, formed his first musical ensemble, called “The Skyway Band”. While at school he discovered the Rastafari movement. At the age of 18 Dube joined his cousin's band, “The Love Brothers”, playing traditional Zulu music known as mbaqanga. Though Dube remained in school, the band recorded material in Johannesburg during his school holidays. The resultant album was released under the name “Lucky Dube and the Supersoul”. The second album was released soon afterwards, and this time Dube wrote some of the lyrics in addition to singing. Around this time he also began to learn English.
On the release of his fifth mbaqanga album, Dave Segal (who became Dube's sound engineer) encouraged him to drop the "Supersoul" element of the name. All subsequent albums were recorded simply as Lucky Dube. At this time Dube began to see that fans were responding positively to some reggae songs he played during live concerts. Drawing inspiration from Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, he felt the socio-political messages associated with Jamaican reggae were relevant to a South African audience in a racist society.
In 1984 he decided to try the new musical genre, and released the mini album Rastas Never Die. The record sold poorly - around 4000 units - in comparison to the 30,000 units his mbaqanga records would sell. Keen to suppress anti-apartheid activism, the South African regime banned the album in 1985. However, Lucky was not discouraged and continued to perform the reggae tracks live and wrote and produced a second reggae album in 1985 entitled Think About the Children. It achieved platinum sales status and established Dube as a popular reggae artist in South Africa, in addition to attracting attention outside his homeland.
Lucky Dube continued to release commercially successful albums. In 1989 he won four OKTV Awards for Prisoner, won another for Captured Live the following year and yet another two for House Of Exile the year after. His 1993 album Victims sold over one million copies worldwide. In 1995 he earned a worldwide recording contract with Motown. His album Trinity was the first release on Tabu Records after Motown's acquisition of the label. In 1996 he released a compilation album, Serious Reggae Business, which led to him being named the "Best Selling African Recording Artist" at the World Music Awards and the "International Artist of the Year" at the Ghana Music Awards. His next three albums each won South African Music Awards.
Dube’s last album (aside from two compilations issued posthumously), Respect (released in April 2007), earned a European release through a deal with Warner Music. Dube toured internationally, sharing stages with artists such as Sinéad O'Connor, Peter Gabriel and Sting. He appeared at the 1991 Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica (and, uniquely that year, was invited back on stage for a 25 minute encore) and the 2005 Live 8 event in Johannesburg. In addition to performing music Lucky Dube was a sometime actor, appearing in the feature films Voice In The Dark, Getting Lucky and Lucky Strikes Back.
Tragically, on October 18, 2007, while dropping off his teenage children at their uncle’s home in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville, Lucky Dube was murdered in front of his children during an apparent attempted carjacking. Five men were arrested, tried, convicted in 2009 and sentenced to life in prison. Lucky Dube was 43. He is survived by his wife, Zanele, and his seven children.
Lucky Dube was one of Africa's best loved and biggest-selling reggae artists and he leaves behind a legacy that includes 20 albums spanning his career of over 25 years. Alongside Bob Marley, he was thought of as one of the great reggae artists - singing about political issues, social issues and personal issues. Constantly defying political dictates, his words and music gave hope to the majority of South Africa.
Gramps Morgan, on his 2010 album, 2 Sides of My Heart, Vol. 1, pays tribute to Lucky Dube in his song, “Always & Forever”.
Lucky Dube will be sorely missed. I hope he’s playing his sweet music in heaven.
Sources : Wikipedia.org, Lucky Dube's website