RIP Ray Phiri
South African guitar legend and Paul Simon collaborator dies after cancer battle
By Gary Graff
July 12, 2017
Ray Phiri, the South African guitarist best known for his work with Paul Simon since the mid-‘80s, has died from lung cancer at the age of 70 in Nelspruit.
Phiri’s death was reported early Wednesday (July 12), with South African President Jacob Zuma saluting him as “a musical giant” and calling his death “a huge lost for South Africa and the music industry as a whole.”
The guitarist came to prominence worldwide as part of Simon’s Graceland album in 1986; he went on to tour with Simon in support of the album and was also part of its follow-up Rhythm Of The Saints and took part in the 2012 Graceland anniversary tour. Prior to that Phiri, was known in his homeland for his work with the bands Cannabis and Stimela, the latter a jazz fusion outfit that addressed political strife in South Africa.
The country’s African National Congress Party called Phiri “an immensely gifted composer, vocalist and guitarist [who] breathed consciousness and agitated thoughts of freedom through his music.” The Democratic Alliance also praised Phiri, saying that: “In the 1970s, Phiri’s music spoke to issues that are still affecting our people today.”
Funeral and memorial arrangements have not yet been announced.