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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 25: Ray Phiri of Sitmela performs on stage during the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz 2007 held in Newtown on August 25, 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The South African guitarist made famous worldwide for his work with Paul Simon has passed away.

Ray Phiri, who worked with Simon on his landmark Graceland and Rhythm Of The Saints albums, died Wednesday (July 12) lung cancer at the age of 70 in Nelspruit. 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.”

Phiri 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 throughs 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.

 

Gary Graff is an award-winning music journalist who not only covers music but has written books on Bob Seger, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.

Erica Banas is rock/classic rock news blogger that loves the smell of old vinyl in the morning.