Lucky Dube Biography

Dube (pronounced "Doo-Bay") was at the height of his international fame as South Africa's first and foremost reggae performer when was shot to death in a botched carjacking in 2007. Born August 3, 1964, into a Zulu family in Ermelo, Eastern Transvaal, South Africa, a town 90 miles west of Johannesburg, the sickly infant was named "Lucky" by parents surprised that he survived. As a nine-year-old growing up in Johannesburg, Dube's love of reading earned him a job as an assistant in his grade school's library and it was there that he first read in an encyclopedia about Rastafarianism and its association with reggae. Dube, who began singing in church and school choirs the year before, used the money he earned to purchase albums by Peter Tosh entry), the only reggae artist whose music was then available in South Africa. Upon completion of high school, he moved to Durban then enrolled at the University of KwaZulu-Natal where he completed a bachelor of science degree. Dube enrolled in Wits University in Johannesburg to begin a medical degree, but dropped out in 1982 at the age of 18 to join the band, The Love Brothers. Founded by his cousin, record producer Richard Siluma, the quintet played mbaqanga, or "Zulu pop," a musical fusion of soul and pop merged with traditional Zulu music first introduced to America by Paul Simon in his landmark album, Graceland. Siluma, the group's manager and arranger, worked in Johannesburg for Teal Records which ulti - mately became a part of Gallo, the largest recording company in South Africa. Promoted by Siluma as Lucky Dube and the Supersoul, the group released five mbaqanga albums on the Gallo label over the next few years. Lucky Dube, however, had become increas - ingly attracted to the Rastafarian lifestyle, despite refusing to smoke marijuana or drink alcohol, and saw in reggae a powerful, universal, and commercial vehicle by which to address important social issues like apartheid confronting blacks in his own country. Without the knowledge of the Gallo Record Company, Dube and his band went into the studio in 1985 and recorded Rastas Never Die, a four-song EP which marked the first attempt to introduce reggae into South Africa. Heavily influenced by reggae great Peter Tosh, Dube played all the instruments on the album which sold a disastrous 4,000 units at a time when mbaqanga records were selling on average 30,000. Gallo's anger with Dube over the shift in his musical direction was exacerbated by the banning of the album as subversive by government radio broadcaster SABC. Undeterred, Dube introduced reggae into his live shows and slowly began winning over his base audience to his new sound and message. The singer-songwriter's second reggae album, Think About the Children (1986), was a minor hit, but it was not until the 1987 release of Slave that Lucky Dube and his renamed backup band, The Slaves, experienced a breakthrough. The album sold more than 500,000 units worldwide aided by its release in France on the Celluloid label and a distribution deal with New Jersey-based Shanachie Records. In Johannesburg, crowds at concerts of Lucky Dube and the Slaves swelled to over 50,000. Released in 1988, Together as One openly called for all South Africans, black and white, to unite. Though the Pretoria government banned the album in 1989 due to its use of the word "apartheid," state run radio bowed to unprecedented popular demand and played the record's title track. Now a commonplace, Dube became the first black artist to be played on white radio. Building on the success of his albums, Dube routinely played to crowds topping 65,000 and became internationally recognized as a new and powerful voice in reggae. Buoyed by his popularity as a singer, Dube appeared opposite John Savage in the 1989 motion picture Voice in the Dark. Prisoner, released in 1989, achieved double platinum status in five days, and in 1991 Dube became the first South African ever to perform at the prestigious Sunsplash Festival in Jamaica. An electrifying performer, Dube wowed the discerning reggae crowd and earned the further distinction of becoming the first and only artist ever to be recalled to the stage for a 25 minute encore. Recognized as the preeminent non–Jamaican performer of reggae, Lucky Dube and the Slaves shared world-wide stages with other international artists concerned with social justice like Peter Gabriel, Sinead O'Connor, Sting, and Midnight Oil. On the evening of October 18, 2007, moments after dropping off his 16-year-old son and 15-yearold daughter at the gate of his brother's home in Rosettenville, a suburb south of Johannesburg, three carjackers shot the 43-year-old singer at close range as he sat in his Chrysler. Mortally wounded, Dube was able to drive off, but the car hit a parked vehicle, jumped a curb, and smashed into a tree. The carjackers fled the scene in a blue Volkswagen Polo leaving Dube dead at the scene behind the wheel of his car. The popular singersongwriter who had recorded some 21 albums and had received over twenty local and international awards was survived by a wife and seven children. The killing of arguably the country's most heralded star refueled public outrage and debate over the South African government's inability to curb violence at a time when the country was logging an astounding fifty murders a day. As many South Africans called for the reinstatement of the death penalty, a crack squad of detectives was assigned to quickly resolve the highly visible case. Three days after the shooting, police arrested five suspects (two were later released) and recovered two handguns and the car believed to have been used in the crime. Herded into a magistrate's court in Johannesburg jammed with hostile members of Dube's family and fans, three men (Sifiso Mlanga, 32, Julius Gxowa, 30, from Mozam - bique, and Mbofi Mabe) were charged with murder and held without bail awaiting trial. Meanwhile as condolences and testimonials from artists around the world were printed in the international press, Dube was buried on his Ingogo farm near Newcastle in a ceremony attended by thousands who had been touched by his music and personal generosity. At trial (delayed by a seemingly endless series of postponements), all three men were found guilty of Dube's murder on March 31, 2008, and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.