Johnny Clegg

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Johnny Clegg
JohnnyClegg Huma.jpg
Johnny Clegg at la fête de l'Humanité, France, 2007
Background information
Birth name Jonathan Clegg
Also known as Johnny Clegg
Le Zoulou Blanc
Born (1953-06-07) 7 June 1953 (age 62)
Bacup, Lancashire, England
Genres Mbaqanga, Afro-pop
Instruments Vocals, guitar, concertina
Years active 1980–present
Labels Capitol Records
Associated acts Juluka, Savuka
Past members Sipho Mchunu (Juluka), Dudu Mntowaziwayo Ndlovu (Savuka)
Notable instruments
Fender Esquire

Jonathan "Johnny" Clegg (born 7 June 1953) is a British-born musician and anthropologist from South Africa, who has recorded and performed with his bands Juluka and Savuka, and more recently as a solo act, occasionally reuniting with his earlier band partners. Sometimes called Le Zoulou Blanc ("The White Zulu"), he is an important figure in South African popular music history, with songs that mix Zulu with English lyrics and African with various Western music styles.

Early life and career[edit]

Clegg was born in Bacup, Lancashire, to an English father and a Rhodesian mother. Clegg's mother's family were Jewish immigrants from Lithuania and Poland,[1] and Clegg had a "secular Jewish" upbringing. Already in his youth, Clegg, a white, English-speaking person who was raised in the UK, Israel, Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), Zambia, and South Africa, became interested in Zulu street music and took part in traditional Zulu dance competitions.

As a young man, in the early stages of his musical career, he combined his music with the study of anthropology, a subject which he also taught for a while at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where he was influenced, among others, by the work of David Webster, a social anthropologist who was assassinated in 1989.


Main article: Juluka

In 1969, Clegg formed the first prominent racially mixed South African band, Juluka, with gardener and Zulu musician Sipho Mchunu. The name Juluka is based on the Zulu word for "sweat". Because it was illegal for racially mixed bands to perform in South Africa during the apartheid era, their first album Universal Men[2] received no air play on the state owned SABC, but it became a word-of-mouth hit.

Juluka's / Clegg's music was both implicitly and explicitly political; not only was the fact of the success of the band (which openly celebrated African culture in a bi-racial band) a thorn in the flesh of a political system based on racial separation, the band also produced some explicitly political songs. For example, the album "Work for All" (which includes a song with the same title) picked up on South African trade union slogans in the mid-80's. Even more explicit was the later Savuka album Third World Child in 1987, with songs like "Asimbonanga" ("We haven't seen him"),[3] which called for the release of Nelson Mandela, and which called out the names of three representative martyrs of the South African liberation struggle – Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge, and Neil Aggett.

As a result, Clegg and other band members were arrested several times and concerts routinely broken up.[4]

Juluka were able to tour in Europe, and had two platinum and five gold albums, becoming an international success. Juluka was disbanded in 1986, when Mchunu was asked by his father to return home to look after the family cattle, although Mchunu made some solo recordings afterwards.


Johnny Clegg & Savuka, 1993
L-R: Derek De Beer, Mandisa Dlanga, Solly Letwamba, Johnny Clegg, Steve Mavuso, Keith Hutchinson
Main article: Savuka

Clegg went on to form his second inter-racial band, Savuka, continuing to blend African music with European influences. The name Savuka is based on the Zulu word for "we have risen" or "we have awakened". The Savuka albums Shadow Man (which sold 250,000 copies within a week after its release went on to sell more than 1,000,000 copies in France alone),[5] and Cruel Crazy, Beautiful World dealt with more romantic topics, including "Cruel Crazy Beautiful World", where a father gives a message to his son, "Dela" where the essence of love is explored, and more politically focused songs, such as "Warsaw 1943" and "One (Hu)'man one vote" which go back to political messages. Third World Child and Shadow Man occupied first and second position respectively in France and became the most successful foreign band in France and Shadow Man topped the charts in Montréal, Québec, Canada.[5] At the height of the band's success in 1988, Michael Jackson had to cancel his show in Lyon, France, as he attracted a smaller audience than Johnny Clegg and Savuka. A newspaper headline in France read "white man singing black music, out sells black man singing white music"[5] Their last album Heat, Dust and Dreams was nominated for a Grammy Award for best album in the category of World Music.[5]


Briefly reunited with Mchunu in the mid-1990s, Clegg reformed Juluka and toured throughout the world including a tour of the USA in 1996, on which King Sunny Ade was the opening act.

Clegg and his band often make an international tour during May–August (South African winter). However, the tours are usually limited to France and surrounding countries. In June 2004, Johnny Clegg toured North America for the first time in over eight years, doing 22 concerts in one month. Even though they had no albums for sale in North America during those eight years, and no significant media coverage, they filled most of their venues.

Clegg returned to North America with his band in July 2005, with dates booked throughout the US and Canada. His new album One Life was remixed at Real World Studios in Bath, England, and released on 30 October 2006 in the UK.[citation needed]

Clegg and his band toured Europe and North America in 2011 to a combined audience of 35,000.[6][7] He also announced that he would play in the Western Saharan city of Dakhla, which caused a rejection campaign, as that concert is considered as a support for Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.[8] Clegg toured North America in 2012 and one venue in France to a combined audience of 70,000.[7]

In 2013 Clegg continues to tour with a stripped-down, storytelling version of his concerts. Johnny Clegg told Eyewitness News that he's developing a musical based on his life story and an autobiography is in the pipeline.

In popular culture[edit]

His song "Scatterlings of Africa" gave him his only entry in the UK Singles Chart to date, reaching No. 75 in May 1987. The following year it was featured on the soundtrack to the 1988 Oscar winning film, Rain Man.[9]

Savuka's song "Dela" was featured on the soundtrack of the 1997 film George of the Jungle and its 2003 sequel, while "Great Heart" was the title song for the 1992 film Jock of the Bushveld. "Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World" was featured in the 1990 film Opportunity Knocks and 1991 film Career Opportunities. "Great Heart" was also the end credits song for the 2000 Disney movie Whispers: An Elephant's Tale.[10]

Jimmy Buffett recorded "Great Heart" for his 1988 album, Hot Water.

In 2002 Clegg provided several songs and incidental background music for Jane Goodall's "Wild Chimpanzees" DVD. Included in the extras on the disc are rare scenes of Clegg in the recording studio.[11]

He co-wrote "Diggah Tunnah" with Lebo M. for Disney's 2004 direct-to-video animated film The Lion King 1½.


Personal life[edit]

Johnny Clegg's son Jesse Clegg is also a recording artist. Displaying a style markedly different from that of his father, in 2008 he released his debut album called When I Wake Up. As a rock musician the younger Clegg has quickly built up a following, with the album being nominated for two South African Music Awards.[19]


  • Clegg, Jonathan (1981). Phil Bonner, ed. ""Ukubuyisa Isidumbu", "Bringing back the body": An examination of the ideology of vengeance in the Msinga and Mpofana Rural Locations, 1822–1944". Working Papers in Southern African Studies (Johannesburg: Ravan Press) 2. 
  • Clegg, Jonathan (1981). Andrew Tracey, ed. "The Music of Zulu Immigrant Workers in Johannesburg: A Focus on Concertina and Guitar". Papers presented at the Symposium on Ethnomusicology (Grahamstown: International Library of African Music). 
  • Clegg, Jonathan (1982). Andrew Tracey, ed. "Towards an understanding of African Dance: The Zulu Isishameni Style". Papers read at Second Symposium on Ethnomusicology, 24–26 September 1981, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa (Grahamstown: Institute of Social and Economic Research). 

Juluka discography[edit]

Studio albums

Johnny Clegg solo discography[edit]


Year Album Peak positions
1985 Third World Child (Johnny Clegg solo version)
1988 Le Rock Zoulou de Johnny Clegg & Sipho Mchunu
2002 New World Survivor
2006 Heart of the Dancer
2006 One Life 150
2010 Human 109

Live albums[edit]



Johnny Clegg & Savuka discography[edit]



  • 1991: Scatterlings of Africa (re-recording by Savuka)
  • 1994: Live And Rarities
  • 2002: My African Dream – The Best of Johnny Clegg & Savuka (mainly compilation, but includes some previously unreleased tracks)


Year Single Peak positions Album
1986 "Johnny Clegg And Savuka EP" (SA only) EP
1987 "Scatterlings of Africa" 8 75 Third World Child
1988 "Asimbonanga (Mandela)" 2 94
"Great Heart" (UK only)
"I Call Your Name" 10 Shadow Man
"Take My Heart Away"
1989 "Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World" 24 26 86 Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World
1990 "One 'Man, One Vote"
"Dela" (FRA only)
1993 "The Crossing" Heat, Dust & Dreams
"These Days"
2013 "Scatterlings of Africa" (re-entry) 87 Third World Child
"Asimbonanga (Mandela)" (re-entry) 12 45
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ "Content Not Found – Mail & Guardian". 13 February 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  3. ^ "Johnny Clegg". Johnny Clegg. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  4. ^ "White father of African rock marks anniversary – Mail & Guardian Online". Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Johnny Clegg Biographies". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  6. ^ "Johnny Clegg tour dates". Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  7. ^ a b [2][dead link]
  8. ^ "Johnny Clegg". Facebook. Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 110. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  10. ^ "Whispers: An Elephant's Tale (2000)". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  11. ^ "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees (2002)". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  12. ^ [3][dead link]
  13. ^ "Human Rights Activist, Jonathan "Johnny" Clegg Recieves(sic) Honorary Degree – CUNY School of Law". 15 April 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "National orders to be awarded | News24". 24 April 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Dartmouth Commencement 2012 – Johnny Clegg, Doctor of Humane Letters". 10 June 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "'Music Legend' Johnny Clegg Receives Honorary Doctorate". 17 April 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  17. ^ "Honorary awards for their courageous contributions". Daily News (Independent Online). 17 April 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  18. ^ "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Birthday Honours 2015 – South Africa". Government Digital Service. 13 June 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015. 
  19. ^ [4][dead link]
  20. ^ a b "Johnny Clegg discography". Hung Medien. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  21. ^ "Johnny Clegg discography". Hung Medien. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  22. ^ "The Official Charts Company – Johnny Clegg". The Official Charts Company. 2 May 2014. 

External links[edit]