The mark Johnny Clegg has left on the local music industry is undeniable. The star, who recently underwent chemotherapy for stage two pancreatic cancer, is in the midst of his final world tour and recently released his latest studio album ‘Music Is King’. It’s safe to say that so many local artists have been inspired by Johnny and his work throughout their careers and now, over 50 prominent artists have come together to record a cover of his smash hit ‘The Crossing’ as a tribute.
The acts who took part in this incredible initiative include Abigail Kubeka, Andre Venter, Andy Mac, Anna Davel, Ard Matthews, Arno Carstens, Bobby van Jaarsveld, Corlea Botha, Craig Hinds, Craig Lucas, Dan Patlansky, Dave Matthews, David Kramer, Dorothy Masuka, Elvis Blue, Emo Adams, Francois van Coke, Franja du Plessis, Gloria Bosman, Jack Parow, Jason Hartman, Jesse Clegg , Jimmy Nevis, Juanita du Plessis, Judith Sephuma, Kahn Morbee, Karen Zoid, Karlien van Jaarsveld, Kurt Darren, Laudo Liebenberg, Lira, Majozi, Mike Rutherford, Paige Mac, Patricia Lewis, Peter Gabriel, Ross Learmonth, Somizi, Stompie Manana, Thandeka Campher, Thembeka Mnguni, Tresor, Vicky Sampson, Victor Masondo, Vusi Mahlasela, Yati Khumalo and Zolani Mahola.
The track was unveiled in a special ceremony last night which also served as the launch of Friends Of Johnny Clegg – a fund created in Johnny’s honour to help alleviate the education crisis in South Africa. All proceeds from downloads of this special version of “The Crossing” will go toward this fund. These proceeds will be distributed by the Click Foundation, which targets young learners with an online phonetics-based programme in centres across the country, ultimately aimed at creating a better future for the youth of South Africa — a cause close to Johnny’s heart.
Naturally, Johnny was overwhelmed at the incredible rendition of the song as well as the recognition he received from his peers. “I am speechless, thank you so much. This is an amazing moment for me – to have so many of my peers acknowledge the song and its sentiments, and that they can use that to further something much bigger than all of us. Thank you,” he said.
Meanwhile, some of South Africa’s biggest names opened up about the impact Johnny had on their careers. “For me his story inspired my entire approach to a career in music because he made me believe that in an industry and a country shrouded in a constant state of flux and uncertainty it was possible to actually have a career in music that transcended culture, race, boundaries and borders,” The Parlotones’ Kahn Morbee says. “He made me believe that you could make popular music that wasn’t frivolous but on the contrary was profound and laden with substance with the power to change a part of the world for the better, even if just for a moment… And best of all, he became an accidental hero because he was in love with the human journey and its diversity and became a magnet and beacon of the magic that can be achieved when we celebrate all of US.”
Karen Zoid adds that “Working on this project has been one of the greatest honours of my career. The Crossing is a song about courage and acceptance and being able to navigate difficult times because of the love inside that drives you to keep bearing forward. We, as friends and fans of Johnny sing his words back at him, as to pay respect to him for his humanity and bravery. May this be the guiding light to thousands of children who will benefit from the incredible work done by The Click Foundation, through the Friends of Johnny Clegg Fund.”
Freshlyground’s Zolani Mahola says that “Johnny Clegg has been a figure I have looked up to since I was a small child. That a white man could find value in the things I called normality … my cultures and my norms; yes, even my black skin in a country which absolutely devalued my experience and my existence … was and still is a wonder. He was one of the first examples of embracing the dichotomy of the South African experience and I’m so happy to honour him with my fellow artists in singing this song which means so much to us all in honour of a man who means so much to all of us. I’m pleased as punch to lend my voice!”
Watch the exceptional music video to this exciting rendition here: