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Jonathan Butler: The Simple Life

Jonathan Butler’s optimistic music belies a dirt-poor childhood growing up in a South Africa segregated by apartheid. Live in South Africa, a new CD and DVD package, presents a sense of the resulting inner turmoil, mixed with dogged resolve, that paved the way to his status as an icon in his country and successful musician outside of it. Looking back, the 46-year-old Butler says today, the driving forces that led to his overcoming apartheid-the formal policy of racial separation and economic discrimination finally dismantled in 1993-were family, faith and abundant talent.

“When we were kids, our parents never talked about the ANC [African National Congress] or Nelson Mandela,” he says. Butler was raised as the youngest child in a large family. They lived in a house patched together by corrugated tin and cardboard, in the “coloreds only” township of Athlone near Cape Town. “They never talked about struggles so we never knew what was happening.”

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