Bold, brash, and brilliant, Brenda Fassie said in a 1998 interview: “I'm a shocker. I like to create controversy. It's my trademark.” And shock she did with a turbulent personal life, marred with drug battles, failed relationships, lesbian affairs and headline-grabbing tantrums. Addiction shadowed Brenda Fassie's celebrity, and in the early 1990s, she admitted having a chronic cocaine and alcohol problem, following her separation from her husband Nhlanhla Mbambo amid accusations that he was a wife-beater. In 1995, Brenda Fassie hit rock bottom when she was found in a hotel room, in a drug-induced haze, lying next to the body of her lesbian lover, Poppie Sihlahla, who had died of an apparent drug overdose.
Just when critics had written her career off, Brenda Fassie emerged on the scene with the release of the album Memeza, South Africa's best-selling album of 1998; that same year, Brenda Fassie scooped the Kora Award for best female artist. She was on top of the world, saying: “I'm going to become the Pope next year. Nothing is impossible.” But Brenda Fassie never won her battle with addiction. On 26 April, shortly after the release of Mali, her last album, Brenda Fassie had a severe asthma attack, suffered brain damage and fell into a coma. News of her condition dominated South Africa's headlines for weeks.
Despite her personal battles, there is no denying that Miss Fassie was simply the continent's greatest pop star.
(b. November 3, 1964 – d. May 9, 2004)