Friends & Friction: Win some, lose some – but keep the passion

Muzi Kuzwayo
Muzi Kuzwayo

It happened to the silky soul singer Marvin Gaye, and now it is happening to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.

When Teddy Pendergrass sang “it’s so good, so good, so good … when somebody loves you back”, the line tore into Marvin’s heart.

According to the book Divided Soul by David Ritz, Marvin Gaye hated TP’s success.

He felt that the latter had copied his look and then stole the screaming girls from him.

Marvin’s What’s Going On was enormously successful, breaking through the colour line and selling well to white audiences. His look was brave at the time because he came from a more black-confident stable, Motown.

He was a breath of fresh air, and decidedly different to the typical clean-shaven Negro entertainer.

His subsequent album, Let’s Get It On, also brought him the screaming girls.

TP, coming from rival stable The Sound of Philadelphia, also grew a beard, but the girls did not only scream for him, they also threw their panties at him while tears rolled down their cheeks.

Unfortunately for Marvin, who was more of a recording artist than a performer, his crowds became smaller.

His biggest problem was that he didn’t enjoy what he was doing because he had actually wanted to sing gospel, but the money and the girls were on the other side.

When he finally caught up with the rowdy crowds, he discovered that there was a hollowness in his soul, which led to a life of drug abuse and a broken family. He eventually died by his own father’s hand.

When Zille tweeted that “not everything about colonialism was bad”, she was dealing with her own conscience, because she knows that she abandoned a greater ideal for a life of screaming and shouting – a life called politics.

As a journalist, she uncovered the story of Steve Biko’s death, which tightened the noose on the apartheid government.

She was in the Black Sash, and so knows more than most that the apartheid colonial judiciary was anything but independent.

She knows all this because her own party, the DA, was founded by the son of Judge Ramon Leon, who was nicknamed the “hanging judge” because he was an ardent enforcer of apartheid injustice.

Her tweet suggests that Zille can’t believe that she spent the second part of her life protecting privilege after a youthful life of fighting for the underdog.

She worked in the corridors through which the titans walked, but, unlike people such as the late Donald Woods, who also wrote about Biko and became part of South Africa’s history, she will become no more than a footnote in its bibliography.

Sorry, Helen, it was not the British who invented sanitation and water supply – that ingenuity is credited to the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilisation, which extended from what is today northeast Afghanistan to Pakistan and northwest India.

When you are facing the twilight of your career, as Zille is, and a voice inside you asks if this is all there is at the end of all such toil, do not despair.

After an accident that confined him to a wheelchair, Teddy Pendergrass created a beautiful song called In My Time, in which he sings: “I’ve won some and I’ve lost some/ But us dreamers don’t complain/ We keep reaching out for passion/ No matter what the pain.”

If there is anything that we can learn from people such as Zille and Gaye, it is to follow our passion and never cross the line, because the prize on the other side is an ice cream trophy – you have to gobble it up quickly or it will invariably create a mess.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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