Johnny is Not Dead
Leave Us a Review
  • Koos Kombuis
  • Johnny is Not Dead
  • Released in: 2013

A song dedicated to the memory of legendary South African musician Johannes Kerkorrel, by his former bandmate and fellow legend, Koos Kombuis.

REVIEW BY Sancheo Lawrence Music EXPERT
Review posted: 05/11/2013

"Johnny is nie dood nie" (Johnny is Not Dead) is dedicated to Johannes Kerkorrel, a revolutionary South African musician and a nonconforming, anti-apartheid maverick in every fiber of his being. His suicide came under great scrutiny, leading to the release of the book and movie Who killed Johannes Kerkorrel? Upon his death, Deputy Minister Brigitte Mabandla said: “Through his music, Kerkorrel espoused nation-building, tolerance, and acceptance of the diversity in our society. As an artist, he was sensitive to the injustices of the time and spoke out against them. Kerkorrel will always have a place in the cultural history of South Africa.”

"Johnny is nie dood nie" is dedicated to Johannes Kerkorrel, a revolutionary South African musician and a nonconforming, anti-apartheid maverick in every fiber of his being."

In 1987, after being fired from his job as a journalist in the newspaper Rapport, Kerkorrel and musician Koos Kombuis started a musical journey together. The two men performed as a duo until they formed their controversial band, Johannes Kerkorrel en Die Gereformeerde Blues Band, clearly provoking the Dutch Reformed Church (Kerkorrel translates as Church Organ). Together, they revolutionized Afrikaans music. In 1988, they performed at a concert in Johannesburg named Die Eerste Alternatiewe Afrikaans Rockkonsert (The First Alternative Afrikaans Rock Concert), the essence of which was to give a stage to Afrikaners against the autocratic apartheid regime. Kerkorrel mesmerized over 4,000 spectators by launching attacks against the nationalist government, calling out for solidarity and liberation. Naturally, he received incredible support from all underground artists sharing his strife, and so began his climb to become an iconic musical legend throughout South Africa and abroad. He was the only white artist to perform at the 1994 inauguration of Nelson Mandela, singing "Halala Afrika."

"Johnny is nie dood nie" was written by none other than his fellow band member, friend, poet, writer, and legend, Koos Kombuis. The song addresses so many aspects of death, that anyone who has ever experienced loss has likely pondered and asked the very same questions. It begins as a mournful lament with a strong undertone of antagonistic frustration, escalating into an almost hard rock rhythm, for which Kombuis is most known, while the lyrics delve into raw, vivid, shocking truths, portraying the lifestyle of these two musical geniuses. The lyrics, however simple, are filled with Anglicisms, profanity, and Cape Town colloquialisms. They express understanding, anger, and remorse, and find profound truth.

"This is probably one of the most moving, profound songs written about death and loss, guaranteed to keep listeners mesmerized."

Kerkorrel is not dead, but is rather “uitgepass,” which means "passed out or exhausted," although in Afrikaans, the term literally means something close to "falling asleep due to intoxication or partying." Kombuis reminisces on the various statements made by his friend, in a one-sided conversation backed by the simple strum of a guitar. There is an instrumental build-up on the third verse, as the artist says of Kerkorrel: “You wanted to make a date with the National Road, to convince people to take chances, but there were flies on your windscreen and depression was your master.” Both artists traveled extensively down the road of depression. Koos Kombuis was even wrongly diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia in 1976, costing him years of amnesia. Kombuis asks: "Why is it all over, do you know the reason we had to lose you?" and later questions what happens in heaven. This is probably one of the most moving, profound songs written about death and loss, guaranteed to keep listeners mesmerized.

Lyrics and English translation:

Jy het gesê jy wil 'n "break" vat (You said you want to take a break)
Van die toere en die langpad (From the tours and the long road)
Elke aand 'n ander soundcheck (Every evening a different sound check)
Elke nag 'n nuwe slaaplek (Every night a different place to sleep)
Jy het gewens jy kon net "chill" (You wished you could just "chill")
En dit is tyd vir 'n sabbatical (It was time for a sabbatical)
Maar nog voor jou woorde koud was (But before your words grew cold)
Het jy besef dat jy te out was (You realized you were too old)
jou "repertoire" was klaar (Your repertoire was complete)
dit was te laat vir nog 'n "comeback' oor 'n jaar. (It was too late for another comeback in a year)
Jy het gedink jy het niks meer om te sê (You thought you had nothing left to say)
En jou eks vrou wil jou geld hê (Your ex-wife wanted your money)
Maar die kustefees vat elke sent, (The arts festivals took every cent)
'n mens se omset is skaars 10% (you only saw 10%)
Van die brutto, pyn en hartseer (of the profits and pain and heartache)
Elke fokken keer jy probeer om 'n "difference" in die land te maak (Every fucking time you tried to make a difference in the country)
Om 'n lied te skryf wat mense raak (Wrote a song to touch people)
'n finale helder antwoord op suiwer stuppel koord op jou gitaar. (A final answer or perfect chord on your guitar).
Jy't gese jy wil 'n "date" maak, met die nationale pad (You said you wanted to make a date with the National Road)
Jy wou jou mense ompraat om 'n nuwe kans te vat (You wanted to convince your people to take a chance)
Maar daar was vliëe op jou "windscreen" (But there were flies on your windscreen).
En depressie was jou baas (And depression was your boss)

Johnny jy's nie dood nie (x4), (Johnny, you're not dead)
Jy's net uitgepaas (You've only passed out)
Onderkant die wind by die spoor, (Below the wind at rail line)
By die spoor (at the rail line)
Hang reuke in die nag (Smells hang in the night)
Wat na trane ruik (That smell of tears)
onderkant die wind by die spoor, (Below the wind at the rail line)
by die spoor (at the rail line)
onder hierdie maan lê my vriend se lyk (beneath this moon lies my friend's corpse)
Met ’n storie op die voorblad, (With a story on the front page)
met ’n kiekie van ’n kar, (And a photo of a car)
net ’n byline (Only a by-line)
Maar by nr22 is dit stil (But at No. 22 it is quiet)
by nr22 was die laaste pil (By No.22 was the last pill)
in die pypline, in die pypline (in the pipeline, in the pipeline)


Johnny was ’n cowboy, (Johnny was a cowboy)
Johnny was ’n rushkop (Johnny was a rush-head/drug addict )
Johnny, Johnny, Johnny maak ’n groot geraas (make a loud noise)
Johnny was ’n "genius", (Johnny was a genius)
Johnny was ’n fokkop (Johnny was a fuck-up)
Johnny, Johnny stadig nou, (Johnny, Johnny slow down now)
Johnny,Johnny kap dit flou (Kap=chop, dit=it, flou=faint. Afrikaans expression to go full out, give it all you have, excel)
Johnny is nie dood nie Johnny is nie dood nie, hy’s net uitgepass Onthou jy nog die aande daar in Brinkstraat, Brinkstraat (Do you still remember all the evenings in Brink Street)
Onthou jy nog die maande van fokkol doen en kak praat (Do you still remember the months of doing fuck all and talking shit?)
Onthou jy liewe Jesus met sy vuil blou jeans tussen asbakke en bottels, al daai weird, weird scenes (Do you remember dear Jesus, with dirty jeans, between ashtrays and bottles, all those weird, weird scenes?)
Weet jy dalk die rede? Hoekom is dit alles oor? (do you perhaps know the reason? Why is it all over?)
weet jy dalk die rede hoekom ons jou moes verloor? (do you perhaps know the reason why we had to lose you?)
is daar hoop vir ons wat oorbly? (Is there hope for us that remain here?)
is daar troos vir al die "junkies"? (is there comfort for all the junkies?)
kan ons doen wat ons wil? (Can we do what we want?)
is daar ’n lig daarvoor, of is die party oor? (Is there light ahead, or is the party over?)
is daar tik in die hemel? (Is there tik (South African term for the drug methamphemtamine)
in heaven? Is daar crack in die hemel? (Is there crack in heaven?[crack cocaine]?)



Leave your review for 'Johnny is Not Dead'

Fields with * are required.