Jazz legend, Ray Phiri, has lost the fight to lung cancer in Nelspruit. Phiri, 70, suffering from lung cancer, had been admitted to a Nelspruit hospital and was under the care of an oncologist before his death.

He enjoyed a music career that spanned four decades and had some of his music banned by the apartheid regime in the 1980s.

“Let me suffer pain, on my own with dignity,” he was quoted as saying by The Sowetan this week after reports emerged that his cost of treatment was leading to a public plea for funding.

He rose to fame as a singer in the jazz group Stimela.

Phiri was born near Nelspruit in 1947. In 1985, Paul Simon asked Ray along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo to join his Graceland project, which helped the South African musicians to make names for themselves abroad.

Ray collaborated with Paul Simon again on Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints album, which saw him perform on stages such as Central Park and Madison Square Garden as well as appearing on top TV shows in the US. In 2012 Paul Simon organised a Graceland anniversary tour that Ray participated in.

Phiri was badly injured in 1987 in a crash that claimed the lives of his band manager and six others. In 2003, his wife was killed in a car accident, with Ray escaping serious injury.