Cape Town - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was not only a freedom fighter and a human rights activist but was also a pop culture icon who was recognised internationally.
This is according to members of the band Desmond and The Tutus, who in 2005 established a punk rock group named in his honour.
Tutu also appeared in a groundbreaking AFL centenary commercial to promote Aussie Rules Football in 1996. The commercial featured prominent names such as John Lee Hooker, Heather Locklear and George Burns.
In the commercial, Tutu, standing on a pulpit in his robe with a Bible in his hand, is heard saying, “I hear you guys worship Aussie Rules. Hey, what sort of religion is that?”
In the late 1980s Guyanese-British singer Eddie Grant released a global hit song Gimme hope Jo’anna which included a verse dedicated to Tutu.
One of the members of the Desmond and the Tutus band, Craig Durrant, said his name conjured up a kind of joyful energy that spoke to them.
“We were sitting around after a band practise thinking of names and Desmond and the Tutus just came to us. We all instantly loved it and sort of knew we’d never come up with anything better.
“I loved how universal the reference is, that wherever we’ve toured in the world, people love telling us how much they love the band name.
“A few years ago we got a letter from the Archbishop saying he’s happy to be associated with us, which was completely surreal to know that this absolute giant of a man, with all he has done for humanity, acknowledged our existence,” he said.
Another member, Doug Bower, said Archbishop Tutu’s presence in pop culture was undeniable.
“Being named after him, people love trying out their impersonation on us. Years ago when I met Hugh Masekela, he, himself treated us to his Desmond Tutu impersonation and it was pretty good.
“I've also had comedian Nik Rabinowitz spontaneously unleash his impersonation in a coffee shop. One Tutu quote I keep seeing in tributes to him is: ’My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together’,” said Bower.
Shane Durrant said while he has heard people describing Tutu as the country's moral compass, he said he was more than that as he seemed less concerned with right and wrong but more with grace and love.
“In music, we as creators of music can only exist and be motivated to make music if other human beings are willing to listen to our music. We can’t exist alone. His presence seemed to inspire joy in those around him.