“Songs as truthful as a dream/flow as steady as a stream/A stream of knowledge and of pain…”
If any words summed up the work of Raymond Chikapa Enoch Phiri, who died of lung cancer on Wednesday, aged 70, in his birthplace, Nelspruit, it was those. They come from the 1986 song he co-wrote with the Ashley Subel: Whispers in the Deep (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy9QPjUkvvM) – a song that became one of the decade’s anthems of liberation, and lives still.
Phiri’s Malawi-born father, “Just Now” Phiri, was a guitarist, and that family history gives the lie to all the xenophobic myths that cringe before colonialist borders. Migrant workers just like ‘Just Now’ built the economy, and fattened capitalist profits with their sweat. But they also built South African culture and music through the sharing, swapping and inventing of ideas that took place in hostels, shebeens and backyards. The king of instruments…
William Edward John (November 15, 1937 – May 26, 1968), better known by his stage name Little Willie John, was an American R&B singer who performed in the 1950s and early 1960s. He is best known for his popular music chart hits, such as “Fever” in 1956 (later covered in 1958 by Peggy Lee).
Infamous for his short temper and propensity to abuse alcohol, Willie John was dropped by his record company in 1963. In 1966, he was convicted of manslaughter and sent to Washington State Penitentiary following a fatal knifing incident after a show in Seattle. He appealed against his conviction and was released while the case was reconsidered, during which time he recorded what was intended to be his comeback album, but owing to contractual wrangling and the decline of his appeal, it was not released until 2008. He died in 1968 at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington. His official cause of death (at the age of just 30) was listed on the death certificate as a heart attack. (Info from Wikipedia.)
“You never seem to be waiting for me, but we kept meeting at every turn of the paths. Behind every bush, at the foot of each statue, near every pond. It is as if it had been only you and I in all that garden.”
— From Last Year at Marienbad, 1961
Alain Resnais and Delphine Seyrig on location shooting “Last Year At Marienbad.”
I made this in 2007 (hence the bad Youtube quality – compressed to all hell).
Ross Campbell wrote this heartfelt song for our extraordinary, mercurial friend, the visionary artist and musician Alex van Heerden, who was killed five years ago this morning in a car accident. The hole he left will never be closed.
HERE is another tribute written by Righard Kapp at the time of Alex’s passing.
And here is Alex talking with his singular insight at a workshop on Cape music held in Basel in 2006: