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  • Brenda Fassie was a well-known South African singer, songwriter, and activist who performed all over the world. Although she achieved international success, she also struggled with cocaine addiction. Fassie died of a cocaine overdose, at age 39, in 2004.

    How Did Brenda Fassie Die?

    Brenda Fassie was discovered collapsed at her home in Buccleuch, Gauteng on the morning of April 26th, 2004, and was then taken to a Sunninghill hospital. She remained at the hospital until she died on May 9th at 39 years old. 

    While it was first said that Fassie died of cardiac arrest brought on by an asthma attack, a post-mortem report concluded that she died of drug overdose involving cocaine. 

    After Fassie overdosed, she entered a coma and suffered brain damage. She never regained consciousness and her life support machines were turned off after nearly two weeks. 

    Fassie was visited by former president Nelson Mandela, President Thabo Mbeki, and Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as she lay unconscious in the hospital.

    About Brenda Fassie

    Brenda Nokuzola Fassie was born in Langa, a township near Cape Town on November 3, 1964. She was the youngest of nine children and was named after the American singer Brenda Lee. Her mother was a pianist, playing the piano while Brenda sang from a very young age. 

    Early Music Career & Personal Life

    In 1981, Fassie was visited by singer and producer Koloi Lebona. After that visit, she moved to Soweto, Johannesburg to become a professional singer. Fassie eventually became the lead singer of the music group Brenda and the Big Dudes. 

    In the late 1980s, she began working with producer Sello “Chicco” Twala. This partnership turned out to be very successful. They produced the album Too Late for Mama together and it achieved platinum status in 1989.

    In 1985, she had her son, Bongani Fassie, and then went on to marry Nhlanhla Mbambo in 1989. They soon divorced in 1991. It was around this time that Fassie started using cocaine. 

    Activism & International Success

    Fassie was known as an outspoken woman and she used her songs to oppose the apartheid in South Africa. She released the song “Black President” as a tribute to Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa. 

    After that song came out, she stopped singing in English and only sang in Zulu, Xhosa, and Sotho.

    Fassie is best known for her songs “Weekend Special,” “Nomakanjani,” “Now Is The Time,” “Vul’indlela,” and “Memeza.” She was known to her fans as “Mabrrr” as well as the Queen of African Pop.

    In 1999, Fassie won five South African Music Awards including Best Female Artist and Song of the Year. She also won a Kora Award that same year. She also went on to win Best-Selling Release of the Decade and Best Song of the Decade in 2004, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

    In 2001, Time Magazine featured Fassie and called her “The Madonna of the Townships.” This showed her popularity not just in Africa but in America as well.

    Brenda Fassie’s History Of Substance Abuse

    Brenda Fassie had a long history of cocaine abuse and alcohol abuse. In 1995, she was discovered in a hotel room with her lover Poppie Sihlahla from an apparent cocaine overdose. Fassie survived but Sihlahla died. 

    Despite addiction treatment following this episode, she still had continued problems with drugs throughout her life.

    Did Brenda Fassie Attend Addiction Treatment?

    Fassie underwent rehabilitation in 1995 after an overdose and eventually got her career back on track. However, she relapsed multiple times throughout her life. 

    It’s estimated that Fassie received treatment services at drug rehab centers at least 30 times before she died. 

    Recovery Is Possible

    Brenda Fassie lived with cocaine use disorder most of her adult life and finally succumbed to the tragedy of this chronic disease. However, every person’s battle with addiction is different, and recovery is possible with a combination of professional treatment and ongoing support.

    To learn how we help people overcome cocaine addiction and live healthier, happier lives, please contact Ark Behavioral Health today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on February 16, 2023
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