(November 3, 1964 � May 9, 2004), was a legendary
South African pop singer and widely considered the
voice for disenfranchised blacks during apartheid.
She was affectionately known as the Queen of African
Brenda was born in Langa, Cape Town as the
youngest of 9 children. She was named after Brenda
Lee, an American country singer. Her father died
when she was 2, and with the help of her mother, a
pianist, she started earning money by singing for
1981, at the age of 16, she left Cape Town for
Soweto, Johannesburg to seek her fortune as a
singer. Brenda first joined the group Joy and later
became the lead singer for the township pop group
Brenda And The Big Dudes.
She had a son, Bongani, in 1985 by a fellow Big
Dudes musician. Brenda married ex-convict Nhlanhla
Mbambo in 1989 but later in 1991 got divorced. It
was around this time that she became addicted to
cocaine and her career suffered.
With very outspoken views and frequent visits to
the poorer townships of Johannesburg, as well as
songs about life in the townships, she enjoyed
tremendous popularity. Known best for her songs
"Weekend Special" and "Too Late for Mama", she was
called by Time Magazine in 2001 "The Madonna of the
In a drug-related incident in 1995 she
was discovered unconscious with the body of
her lover, Poppie Sihlahla, who had died of
an apparent overdose.
Fassie survived, underwent
rehabilitation, and got her career back on
track. However, she still had drug problems
and returned to drug rehabilitation clinics
about 30 times in her life.
1996 she released several solo albums like
"Now Is The Time", "Memeza" (1997, the best
selling album in South Africa) and "Nomakanjani?".
Most of her albums became multi-platinum
sellers in South Africa.
On the morning of 26 April 2004, Brenda
collapsed at her home in Buccleuch and was
admitted into the Sunninghill hospital in
The press were told that she had
suffered cardiac arrest but later reported
that she had slipped into a coma brought on
by an asthma attack.
The post-mortem report revealed that she
had taken an overdose of cocaine in the
night of her collapse, and this was the
cause of her coma. She stopped breathing and
suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen.
Brenda died at age 39 on 9 May 2004 in
hospital without returning to consciousness
after her life support machines were turned
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