Karen van Rooyen
MULTI-AWARD-WINNING musician George Benson, 68, cannot wait to perform in Port Elizabeth.
Although no stranger to the country – he has performed in Cape Town and Johannesburg – this will be Benson’s first visit to the Eastern Cape.
“I look forward to being in Port Elizabeth. Somewhere along the way, somebody had good things to say about Port Elizabeth and I’m looking forward to experiencing it for myself,” Benson said from Paradise Valley, Arizona, last night.
“I expect to see things I haven’t seen before and I’m excited about that. I don’t get the chance to do everything I want because we’re busy with rehearsals but I like having the opportunity to hang out with other musicians and see the sights.”
Benson is the star attraction at the inaugural Nelson Mandela Bay International Music Festival on May 14. It also includes dozens of South African acts, among them Hugh Masekela.
“He was the first artist I met from South Africa. It was on the French Riviera, the Nice [Jazz] Festival. We were very young at that meeting. He had not even married Miriam [Makeba] yet. He’s a fine artist.”
Benson started out as an 8-year- old, singing, dancing and playing the ukulele. Fast forward six decades and he has nearly three dozen albums and 10 Grammys under the belt.
Benson’s hits include Give Me the Night and Greatest Love of All which he first recorded in 1977. Years later, it was covered by Whitney Houston.
The father of seven, who has been married to Johnnie for 46 years, said his secret to a good marriage was allowing his wife to have “her personal expression”.
Asked what those attending the concert could expect, Benson said: “When I play at a concert, I try to make each one special so I do not have a song list. The guys in the band have to stay sharp.”