Lucky Dube

Last updated

Lucky Dube
Lucky Philip Dube

(1964-08-03)3 August 1964
Ermelo, Transvaal (now Mpumalanga), South Africa
Died18 October 2007(2007-10-18) (aged 43)
Johannesburg South Africa Rosettenville, South Africa
Occupation Musician
Thobekile Ngcobo
(m. 19892007)
Musical career
Genres Reggae, mbhaqanga
InstrumentsGuitar, Vocals, and keyboard
Years active1981–2007
Labels Rykodisc, Gallo Record Company
Associated acts The Love Brothers, Remlius

Lucky Philip Dube (pronounced duu-beh; [1] 3 August 1964 – 18 October 2007) was a South African reggae musician and Rastafarian. He recorded 22 albums in Zulu, English and Afrikaans in a 25-year period and was South Africa's biggest-selling reggae artist. [2] [3] Dube was murdered in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville on the evening of 18 October 2007. [3] [4] [5]



Early life

Lucky Dube was born in Ermelo, formerly of the Eastern Transvaal, now of Mpumalanga, on 3 August 1964. His parents separated before his birth, and he was raised by his mother, who named him Lucky because she considered his birth fortunate after a number of failed pregnancies. [6] Along with his two siblings, Thandi and Patrick, Dube spent much of his childhood with his grandmother, Sarah, while his mother relocated to work. In a 1999 interview, he described his grandmother as "his greatest love" who "multiplied many things to bring up this responsible individual that I am today." [7] [8]

Beginning of his musical career

As a child Dube worked as a gardener but, as he matured, 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. [8] While at school he discovered the Rastafari movement. At the age of 18 Dube joined his cousin's band, The Love Brothers, playing Zulu pop music known as mbaqanga whilst funding his lifestyle by working for Hole and Cooke as a security guard at the car auctions in Midrand. The band signed with Teal Record Company, under Richard Siluma (Teal was later incorporated into Gallo Record Company). Though Dube was still at 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. It was around this same time when he began to learn English. [8]

Moving into reggae

On the release of his fifth album, Dave Segal (who became Dube's sound engineer) encouraged him to drop the "Supersoul" element of the name. All subsequent albums were recorded as Lucky Dube. At this time Dube began to note fans were responding positively to some reggae songs he played during live concerts. Drawing inspiration from Jimmy Cliff [9] and Peter Tosh, [7] he felt the socio-political messages associated with Jamaican reggae were relevant to a South African audience in an institutionally racist society. [9]

He decided to try the new musical genre and in 1984, 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 apartheid regime banned the album in 1985, because of its critical lyrics, for instance in the song "War and Crime". [10] However, he was not discouraged and continued to perform the reggae tracks live and wrote and produced a second reggae album. Think About The Children (1985). It achieved platinum sales status and established Dube as a popular reggae artist in South Africa, in addition to attracting attention outside his homeland. [8]

Commercial and critical success

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. [11] His 1993 album, Victims sold over one million copies worldwide. [2] 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. [11]

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. [11] His most recent album, Respect, earned a European release through a deal with Warner Music. [2] Dube toured internationally, sharing stages with artists such as Sinéad O'Connor, Peter Gabriel and Sting. [9] He appeared at the 1991 Reggae Sunsplash (uniquely that year, was invited back on stage for a 25-minute-long encore) and the 2005 Live 8 event in Johannesburg. [9]

In addition to performing music Dube was a sometime actor, appearing in the feature films Voice in the Dark, Getting Lucky and Lucky Strikes Back. [12]

Lucky Dube is considered to be especially remarkable as a Dub Artist due to his lack of a diasporic cultural base. This was particularly due to the nature of Reggae and Dub being a platform for expression of displacement from the homeland. In Prisoner, the South African artist makes the genre his own by applying themes of apartheid and internal displacement. [13] In the song and music video, he is found disturbing the bounds of the genre by highlighting the toils of his own homeland. He was revolutionary in so far as he introduced a competing version to Reggae's constant tendency of romanticizing the utopian homeland of Africa.

Dube took Dub and used it as a platform to promote racial equality within Africa during the Apartheid. He used dub to frame his arguments about colonialism and the African Slave trade, and how he felt that Africa should be reclaimed by the black race. [14]


On 18 October 2007, Lucky Dube was killed by robbers at a Johannesburg suburb called Rosettenville. Shortly after dropping two of his seven children off at their uncle's house. [15] Dube was driving his Chrysler 300C, which the assailants were after. Police reports suggest he was shot dead by carjackers who did not recognize him and believed that he was Nigerian. [16] Five men were arrested in connection with the murder; [17] three were tried and found guilty on 31 March 2009. Two of the men attempted to escape and were caught. [18] The men were sentenced to life in prison. [19]


On 21 October 2008, Rykodisc released a compilation album entitled Retrospective, which featured many of Dube's most influential songs as well as previously unreleased tracks in the United States. The album celebrated Dube's music and honored the contributions he made to South Africa. [20] The Roots Reggae Library has taken steps to store digital versions of the Mbaqange albums made in the 80's. Five of the six albums have been retrieved. Ngikwethembe Na has yet to be found. [21] [22] As one of the first artists to bring African reggae to the mainstream, Dube bridged cultural gaps within the African diaspora. What Lucky Dube's music did was "[present] a praxis of cross-culturality and visionary possibility" [23] that the diaspora at large tends to erase. Dube gave Africa a voice and put its culture on the global stage by joining the global reggae community. Through taking Jamaican roots music back to its roots, he recontextualized the oppression and political struggles that reggae seeps itself in, bringing the basis of the diaspora back in conversation with the diaspora at large to allow for a more pan-African form of cultural expression. Dube's roots reggae brought African people to the table in terms of conversation about the black diaspora by mimicking Caribbean artists' assertions of African authenticity or racial utopia. [23] Lucky Dube ultimately shows how Africans have to find their way into the conversations of the Black Diaspora by mimicking their assertions of African authenticity or racial utopia. Dube catalyzed roots reggae's appearance as a popular form of protest song. [23] This helped “legitimize and strengthen the oppositional gesture in popular African music and culture, particularly for those generations born after decolonization. [23]

On 18 October 2017, Gallo Records South Africa released a 25 track limited edition commemorative album titled The Times We've Shared. The album features his biggest hits exclusive performances and 3 previously unreleased tracks.

In Australia, Lucky Dube's music has found resonance in remote Australian Aboriginal communities, and his popularity has led Lucky Dube to be called "Bigger than the Beatles" throughout much of central and northern Australia. [24] In 2005, Dube was a touring act in Alice Springs, in central Australia, promoted by entrepreneur Scott Boocock, on advice from his friend, Joe Miller, a disc jockey on local First Nations radio station CAAMA Radio, and he had noted that Dube's popularity was growing. Dube's Australian tour started in May 2005, and he played in Alice Springs (to a crowd of 4,000 people), Darwin, Northern Territory, and Cairns, Queensland.






Related Research Articles

Burning Spear

Winston Rodney OD, better known by the stage name Burning Spear, is a Jamaican roots reggae singer-songwriter, vocalist and musician. Burning Spear is a Rastafarian and one of the most influential and long-standing roots artists to emerge from the 1970s.

Alpha Blondy

Seydou Koné, better known by his stage name Alpha Blondy, is an Ivorian reggae singer and international recording artist. Many of his songs are politically and socially motivated, and are mainly sung in his native language of Dioula, French and in English, though he occasionally uses other languages, for example, Arabic or Hebrew.

Hugh Masekela

Hugh Ramapolo Masekela was a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, singer and composer who has been described as "the father of South African jazz". Masekela was known for his jazz compositions and for writing well-known anti-apartheid songs such as "Soweto Blues" and "Bring Him Back Home". He also had a number-one US pop hit in 1968 with his version of "Grazing in the Grass".

Johnny Clegg South African musician and anti-apartheid icon

Jonathan Paul Clegg, OBE, OIS was a South African musician, singer-songwriter, dancer, anthropologist and anti-apartheid activist, some of whose work was in musicology focused on the music of indigenous South African peoples. His band Juluka began as a duo with Sipho Mchunu, and was the first group in the South African apartheid-era with a white man and a black man. The pair performed and recorded, later with an expanded lineup.

Music of South Africa

The South African music scene includes both popular (jive) and folk forms like Zulu isicathamiya singing and harmonic mbaqanga. South Africa has a global music industry.

Kwaito is a music genre that emerged in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the 1990s. It is a variant of house music featuring the use of African sounds and samples. Typically at a slower tempo range than other styles of house music, Kwaito often contains catchy melodic and percussive loop samples, deep bass lines, and vocals. Despite its similarities to hip hop music, Kwaito has a distinctive manner in which the lyrics are sung, rapped and shouted.

Abdullah Ibrahim

Abdullah Ibrahim is a South African pianist and composer. His music reflects many of the musical influences of his childhood in the multicultural port areas of Cape Town, ranging from traditional African songs to the gospel of the AME Church and Ragas, to more modern jazz and other Western styles. Ibrahim is considered the leading figure in the subgenre of Cape jazz. Within jazz, his music particularly reflects the influence of Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington. He is known especially for "Mannenberg", a jazz piece that became a notable anti-apartheid anthem.

Dudu Pukwana

Mthutuzeli Dudu Pukwana was a South African saxophonist, composer and pianist.

Rosettenville Place in Gauteng, South Africa

Rosettenville is a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. It lies to the south of the city centre.

Juluka was a South African music band formed in 1969 by Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu. Juluka means 'sweat' in Zulu, and was the name of a bull owned by Mchunu. The band was closely associated with the mass movement against apartheid.

Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens Music band

Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens were a South African mbaqanga supergroup made up of the three musical acts linked together by talent scout and record producer Rupert Bopape at the Gallo Recording Company in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1964. The group composed of the following:

Luciano (singer) Jamaican second-generation roots reggae artist and poet

Jepther McClymont OD, better known as Luciano, is a Jamaican second-generation roots reggae artist.

Thandiswa Mazwai

Thandiswa Mazwai is a South African musician, and is also the lead vocalist and songwriter of Bongo Maffin. She is also known as King Tha. In 2004,her first solo project Zabalaza album attained double platinum status and her album also got nominated for Planet Awards on BBC Radio 3.

Ras Sheehama is a Namibian reggae musician. The political pro-SWAPO stance of his father forced him into exile in 1979 to Angola and Zambia. There he started to develop his love for the reggae-music and begin to play guitar. In Zambia for the first time he got in contact with the Rastafari and Reggae culture. During the time at a highschool in Lagos, Nigeria between 84 and 88 he played in several Reggaebands. When he returned home in 1990 to witness the first free elections in his home country, he brought huge experiences to Namibia.

Black Prophet, born Kenneth Wilberforce Zonto Bossman on 3 April 1977 in Accra, Ghana, is a Ghanaian reggae music composer and a member of the Rastafari movement.

Jaiva, or township jive (TJ), is a subgenre of South African township music and African dance form that influenced Western breakdance and emerged from the shebeen culture of the apartheid-era townships.

Daniel Clarke, better known as Danny Red, is a British Jamaican reggae musician.

Roots Reggae Library

The Roots Reggae Library is a website that lists reviews of discographies of reggae artists. It contains detailed written descriptions of albums, songs and the style of the artist. There are currently 33 discographies on the website. The content of the website consists of information on a large range of albums within the reggae genre, some of which are extremely rare and hard to get elsewhere. A number of artists discographies are uniquely indexed and/or newly created. Songs with lyrics other than English are interpreted in English. This is done in collaboration with various people around the world.

Music in the movement against apartheid One of the methods of opposition used against the apartheid regime

The apartheid regime in South Africa began in 1948 and lasted until 1994. It involved a system of institutionalized racial segregation and white supremacy, and placed all political power in the hands of a white minority. Opposition to apartheid manifested in a variety of ways, including boycotts, non-violent protests, and armed resistance. Music played a large role in the movement against apartheid within South Africa, as well as in international opposition to apartheid. The impacts of songs opposing apartheid included raising awareness, generating support for the movement against apartheid, building unity within this movement, and "presenting an alternative vision of culture in a future democratic South Africa."

<i>Live at the Market Theatre</i> 2007 live album by Hugh Masekela

Live at the Market Theatre is a double live album by South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela. The record was released on July 17, 2007 via Four Quarters Entertainment label. The album consists of 15 tracks recorded in June 2006 during his two-and-a-half-hour concert in The Market Theatre in Johannesburg. A follow-up DVD was released on 31 July 2007.


  1. Fun Facts,, Retrieved 19 October 2007
  2. 1 2 3 Five facts about reggae star Lucky Dube, Reuters, 19 October 2007
  3. 1 2 S.Africa reggae icon shot and killed – radio Archived 21 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine , Reuters, 19 October 2007.
  4. Hijackers gun down Lucky Dube Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine ,, 19 October 2007
  5. S African reggae star shot dead, BBC News, 19 October 2007,
  6. Car jacker kills reggae star, CNN, 19 October 2007.
  7. 1 2 "Getting Lucky". The Mail & Guardian. 26 August 1999. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 20 October 2007.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Finding reggae,, Retrieved 19 October 2007
  9. 1 2 3 4 Basildon Petain, South African reggae star shot dead in front of his children Archived 21 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine , The Independent, 19 October 2007.
  10. Condolences pour in for Lucky Dube Archived 21 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine , SABC, 19 October 2007.
  11. 1 2 3 Discography,, Retrieved 19 October 2007
  12. Who's Who: Lucky Dube Archived 23 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine , News24, Retrieved 10 October 2007.
  13. Video on YouTube
  14. Chude-Sokei, Louis (2011). "When Echoes Return: roots, diaspora and possible Africas (a eulogy)". Transition (104): 76–92.
  15. "S. African Reggae Star Lucky Dube Killed in Attempted Car-Jacking | Voice of America - English". 27 October 2009. Retrieved 12 March 2020.
  16. "Why Lucky Dube was killed – IOL News". Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  17. "Four arrests over SA star's death". BBC News. 21 October 2007.
  18. Three Accused of the Murder of Lucky Dube Found Guilty Yahoo News, 31 March 2009
  19. Reggae Star's Killers Get Life Independent, 3 April 2009.
  20. Lucky Dube – Bio|Artists|RYKODISC Archived 1 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  21. de Vries, Anton E. (2015). "Lucky Dube". Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  22. Derek Ekhoe. "Bongi Dube Almost Lost Her Life After An Accident". HitNaija. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  23. 1 2 3 4 Chude-Sokei, Louis (27 January 2011). "When Echoes Return: roots, diaspora and possible Africas (a eulogy)". Transition. 104: 76–92. Retrieved 3 January 2019 via Project MUSE.
  24. Stevens, Rhiannon. "'Bigger than the Beatles': The legacy of Lucky Dube". ABC. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 16 October 2019.

Further reading