The Sunday Mail
GIFTED with a deep gusty voice and a talent for writing songs that reflect on daily struggles of the people, the man would turn a croaky cough into a musical tone.
He carried his signature mark everywhere, a brown bag on his shoulder and a poor cowboy’s cap or an African attire.
He played to the enthusiastic audience even in the remotest parts of the country that earned him respect and admiration home and abroad.
Born in 1952 in Highfield, Harare, on September 22, he was the eldest of seven children. His late parents, father Samson and mother Jessica, were both musicians in their own right and it wasn’t long before he followed in their foot marks.
Oliver Mtukudzi’s music career started at the age of 23 with the 1975 release of his debut single, “Stop After Orange.”
He developed a sense of social and economic responsibility early in life due to the untimely death of his father.
In the 1970s, he joined Wagon Wheels, a band which included yet another Zimbabwean star, Thomas Mapfumo, the man who wrote Nyoka Musango and is known as the king of Chimurenga music.
Mtukudzi left the group in 1978 to form his own band — The Black Spirits and released the album “Ndipeiwo Zano.” He also sang with his sister Bybit and brother, Robert (late), who was a guitarist.
Mtukudzi was married to Daisy, and his marriage was blessed with Samson (late) and Samantha. An earlier marriage to Melody Murape produced Sandra and Selmor. Daisy brought Faith into their marriage.
Other children who have been linked to him include Selby, Sybil and Sammy. The late Sam was also an Afro-jazz musician.
A loving man, he penned the song “Svovi” for Daisy.
In 2012, after two years of grief, Mtukudzi released “Sarawoga”, losely translated to mean one “left alone”. He dedicated the song to Sam.
The success he built over the years was not without its downside. He was alleged to have had an affair with one of his backing vocalists, the late Mwendy Chibindi but he adamantly refused. One of his shows in December 2017 at the ZITF grounds in Bulawayo was interrupted by Memory, who claimed to be Tuku’s lovechild. She had her aunt who claimed that Memory’s late mother, Barbra Siziba, had a love affair with the icon. Tuku refused paternity.
In July, 2014 Oliver Mtukudzi was awarded with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters (DHL) by the International Institute of Philanthropy for his outstanding work in helping the less privileged.
Dr Oliver Mtukudzi’s enduring popularity largely came from his prowess as a lyricist. Most of his songs focus on the social and economic issues that govern people’s daily lives.
His infectious sense of optimism pervades all his music, appealing to the young and old alike.
The musician’s career stretched over 42 years with songs that have enlivened parties all over the world with hits like “Neria”, “Todii” and “Wasakara.”
His deep husky voice brought music to the next generation and mentoring young ones was his obsession.
Mtukudzi attended his primary school at Mbizi School and then completed his education at Highfield Secondary School.