Johannesburg, South Africa – South African diva Brenda Fassie died at Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg on the afternoon of May 9. She had been in a coma for some two weeks after suffering an asthma attack on April 26. The attack led to a cardiac arrest, and family members confirmed that Fassie had suffered brain damage afterward. While in a coma, many noteable well-wishers paid visits to Fassie, including South African President Thabo Mbeki and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela among others.
Brenda Fassie’s singing career began in 1979, when Fassie was just 16 years old. South African record producer Koloi Lebona heard her sing, and took her to Johannesburg to continue her schooling and pursue a musical career. In 1983 Brenda had a massive hit record with “Weekend Special” with her band Brenda and the Big Dudes. The song is still regarded as a very important song in South African music history.Her career continued to gain momentum in the 80s and 90s, and she toured extensively throughout the world. The 90s, however, also brought some rough times to Fassie. She was divorced from her husband of 2 years in 1991 amid rumors of physical abuse; she was in and out of drug rehab clinics; in 1995 she awoke from a drug binge next to the body of her lesbian lover who had died of an overdose.
She rededicated herself to her music, and scored a big hit in a collaboration with Papa Wemba. In a 2001 article that coincided with a US tour, Time magazine called Fassie “The Madonna of the Townships.” Her new CDs have sold very well, and are selling out in record numbers since the news of her death.
Fassie’s funeral service will be held at the Langa Stadium in Cape Town on May 16.