Childhood & Early Life
Lucky Philip Dube was born on August 3, 1964, in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, South Africa, to Sarah Dube. Sarah and Lucky’s father parted ways before Lucky was born. Thus, he was raised single-handedly by his mother. He was named “Lucky” because his mother thought that his birth was a fortunate event, as he was born after many failed pregnancies.
Lucky was the third-born child in the family and had two older siblings, Thandi and Patrick. Sarah was not financially stable, and raising three kids all by herself was quite difficult for her. Hence, she traveled a lot for her work and left her three children to live with their grandmother.
Lucky grew quite close to his grandmother and later mentioned that she was his greatest love. He also credited her for making him the person that he went on to become.
Lucky could not attend school for long due to financial restraints. He preferred working to make ends meet instead. He worked as a gardener in his childhood but later attended school, realizing that he would not be able to make enough money for his family if he did not study.
He also developed a keen interest in making music. He joined a choir in school and gathered some of his friends to start a musical group named ‘The Skyway Band.’
When he was in high school, he was introduced to the ‘Rastafarian’ movement and joined it. He also decided to take his musical career ahead and joined his cousin’s band ‘The Love Brothers.’
’The Love Brothers’ mainly made mbaqanga music, a form of Zulu pop music. Initially, the band did not make much money. Thus, Lucky decided to work as a security guard alongside making music.
The band got a huge breakthrough when the ‘Teal Record Company’ signed the band on a contract. Lucky was still in school back then, and the band had to record their album in Johannesburg. Hence, they only recorded during Lucky’s school holidays.
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The band released their debut album, ‘Lucky Dube and the Supersoul,’ in 1981. Lucky sang all the songs in the album. The album mainly consisted of Zulu pop music and thus received moderate success. The band released some more albums in the early 1980s and became locally famous. However, the albums attained limited success. Thus, Lucky learned English to gain a wider reach.
Around the mid-1980s, Lucky realized that while his fans loved his Zulu pop songs, they responded more enthusiastically to the reggae songs he played on stage. He was hugely inspired by reggae musicians such as Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff and decided to venture into the new genre.
He was also noticing the racism that was rampant in South Africa. He believed that reggae music could be used to create awareness among the masses. In 1984, he experimented with reggae and released a mini-album titled ‘Rastas Never Dies.’
However, the commercial response to his debut reggae album was not as great as he had expected it to be. Only 4,000 copies of the album were sold, while his previous albums sold 30,000 copies on an average.
More trouble came his way when one of the songs from the album, titled ‘War and Crime,’ was not liked by the apartheid regime. The anti-establishment sentiment of the album got it banned. However, Lucky was not disheartened. He decided to produce another reggae album.
In 1985, he released the album titled ‘Think About the Children,’ which also addressed many socio-political issues. This album became a huge hit and scored “platinum” sales numbers. In addition, the album made Lucky one of the most popular South African reggae musicians. A few weeks and many live shows later, the album became a rage in other countries, too.
Toward the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Lucky produced back-to-back hit albums, such as ‘Prisoner,’ ‘Captured Live,’ and ‘House of Exile.’ He won several ‘OKTV Awards’ for his works.
In 1993, he released yet another successful album, ‘Victims,’ which sold more than a million copies worldwide. Lucky’s reputation also reached America, and he was approached by ‘Motown Records’ for a deal. He released the album ‘Trinity’ under ‘Tabu Records,’ after the label was taken over by ‘Motown.’
In 1996, he gained more success with the release of his album ‘Serious Reggae Business.’ The album sold millions of copies, and Lucky was soon honored with the “Best Selling African Recording Artist” award at the ‘World Music Awards’ ceremony. He also received the ‘Ghana Music Award’ for the “International Artist of the Year.”
All his next three albums, titled ‘Taxman,’ ‘The Way It Is,’ and ‘Soul Taker,’ went on to win the ‘South African Music Award.’
In 2006, he released the album ‘Respect,’ which became a huge success in Europe, after being released by ‘Warner Music.’
Over the years, Lucky toured around the world and delivered many full-house performances.
Lucky also acted occasionally. He appeared in feature films such as ‘Voice in the Dark,’ ‘Getting Lucky,’ and ‘Lucky Strikes Back.’
After his demise, many of his unreleased songs were released as part of multiple compilation albums. His music became quite popular with the aboriginal population of Australia, after his death. He came to be known as “bigger than the Beatles” in the country.