Piet Botha: Our Very Own Lemmy
Piet Botha was very special to rock fans all around the country. Anyone who ever saw him live or spoke to him will attest to his charisma. He was a rock & roll lifer, a bit like Motorhead’s Lemmy. Piet played his music and that is what he wanted to do. He played it right up to the point where he couldn’t play it anymore and then he passed away. He never tried to be anything other than what he was, the music was everything to him. Both Piet and Lemmy were larger than life to their fans, they were instantly recognisable and both associated with a passion and integrity about their music that cannot be faked.
The albums Piet made with Jack Hammer rank right at the top of my favourite South African albums ever. His solo albums were so incredibly deep, they brought a whole beautiful lyrical aspect that I had missed on ‘English’ albums. I had so many good times thanks to Piet’s music. The festivals and concerts, the smoky pub’s, the times we spent car spotting & finding out who Die Gemmerbrood Man really was. There were many weekend braais and Piet and Jack Hammer were always part of the soundtrack at some stage of the afternoon, night or more likely, early morning.
Piet’s lyrics became special to me and my friends, those who know will know. We often spoke about Piet’s characters; die Engelse Lieutenant, Jacob Klipkop, or Die Mamba. We would see these characters everywhere and it was part of our way of speaking. Very seldom did a weekend go by where one of us wouldn’t mention a line out of one of Piet’s songs.
To me that is one of the marks of true musical greatness, the power to move people and change their lives with your music and words. Piet had this great gift which he loved to share with everyone who would listen. When I moved back to JHB in 2009 I was seriously starved for music, Cape Town had music venues all over the place but in JHB it was a problem. I heard that Piet was playing in Boksburg one night at a place called The Knight & Dragon. Boksburg is home territory for me, right on the border of Benoni, my hometown. I immediately made a plan to go and watch him again. This story is documented in The Story of Rock and Roll Chapter 19: Master of Reality. I won’t go into it here, suffice to say it didn’t matter if Piet was playing a solo on his Strat, playing piano or raising goose bumps with his hauntingly beautiful harmonica, it always connected emotionally. He just had so much soul. Listening to him playing Ghost Riders and then Rider on the Storm at about 02h30 in the morning at Knight & Dragon is still to this day one of my favourite memories.
I’ll let the music do the talking, there isn’t a massive amount of good Piet Botha video footage around so it was great to find this. Once ‘The Road’, the film about Piet, is released I think we will see something really fantastic, until then I’ll keep posting whatever I find. RIP Piet, you were a legend and an inspiration to all of us who ever picked up a guitar or wrote songs. We’ll catch up with you on the Highway to the Sun.