Reggae performer Lucky Philip Dube was born August 3rd 1964 in Ermelo, formerly of the Eastern Transvaal, now of Mpumalanga. While at school he joined a choir and formed his first musical ensemble, called The Skyway Band.
It was here too he discovered the Rastafari movement. At the age of 18 Philip joined his cousin’s band, The Love Brothers, playing Zulu pop music known as mbaqanga.
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 and Peter Tosh he felt the socio-political messages associated with Jamaican reggae were relevant to a South African audience in an institutionally racist society.
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”. 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.
After that experience he went on to become South Africa’s biggest selling reggae artist, recording 22 albums in Zulu, English and Afrikaans in a 25 year period. 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. His 1993 album, Victims sold over one million copies worldwide, and 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.
On October 18, 2007, Lucky Dube was killed in the Johannesburg suburb of Rosettenville shortly after dropping two of his seven children off at their uncle’s house. 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. Five men were arrested in connection with the murder; three were tried and found guilty on 31 March 2009. Two of the men attempted to escape and were caught. The men were sentenced to life in prison.
Until his death Lucky Dube was a Christian and refrained from smoking or drinking alcohol in order to set an example for his children and others who looked up to him.