Living in this crazy world

2009-02-14 00:00

IN 1992, Lucky Dube released House of Exile. Here is a lyrical segment from the album:

“So far so good, still living today

But we don't know what tomorrow brings in this crazy world

People dying like flies everyday

You read about it in the news but you don't believe it

You'll only know about it

When the man in the long black coat knocks on your door

Cause you're his next victim

Yes we are living in this crazy world.”

Ironic? Never one to shy away from confronting the issues of the day head-on, Dube's last album release - Respect - takes to task leaders and individuals who use their power in negative ways. And as of Thursday night, he has become a martyr getting his message across, after being gunned down outside his house in Johannesburg.

It was just over 43 years ago that Lucky Philip Dube was born, on August 3, 1964. Lucky's parents had separated before he was born. Being the only bread winner in the family, his mother Sarah was forced to relocate to find work as a domestic worker, leaving Dube and his siblings Thandi and Patrick to be cared for by his grandmother. Dube's absent father drank heavily, something which didn't factor into his own life. He had only been drunk once, as a young boy, after being tricked at a party. So awful was the experience that he swore off alcohol, cigarettes and drugs completely. At about the age of six, Dube began working in gardens in the white suburbs.

At school, Dube was a natural performer as part of the choir, and when the choir master walked out of their practice one day, Dube took on the role of the choir leader, shepherding the group to being placed third in an inter-school competition. His popularity among his teachers and peers grew and school became a safe haven in his life.

In 1982, Dube, aged 18 and still in school, joined his first real band. His cousin Richard Siluma had formed a band called the Love Brothers in Newcastle. They began touring around the district playing at community events and in school halls. The group played a traditional Zulu music known as Mbaqanga, and this genre was to become Dube's future for a while. The first album, although recorded with the Love Brothers, was released as Lucky Dube and The Supersoul and Siluma produced the record. Lucky was the lead singer but did not write any of the material on that first record, but played a more involved role in the second album.

Dube later met Dave Segal, who was to become his engineer, and the two formed a working relationship that carried on throughout Dube's career, through two-and-a-half decades and numerous albums.

Dube's spiritual beliefs were a foundational point to much of his lyrics, recently articulated in his recent hit Shembe is the Way off the album Respect.

“I think most of my fans know that while I may love reggae music I am not a Rastafarian and have never passed myself off as one,” he said at the time of the album's release. “Over the past few years though I have moved closer to the Shembe church and do believe that this is my spiritual home.”

Dube's music has garnered a worldwide following and accolades locally and internationally, primarily because it speaks about a desire to make the world a better place. Hits such as Taxman, Prisoner, The Way It Is, Victims, Trinity and many others have catapulted him into the homes and hearts of people around the globe. Beside his ability to expose the injustices and the everyday problems of the world, his popularity was cemented through a simple love of a good melody and a good vibe.

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