'Shocked' US star Paul Simon offers support to Ray Phiri's family

17 July 2017 - 12:40 By Kyle Zeeman
Paul Simon performs on stage with Ray Phiri during a tour to promote his Graceland album.
Paul Simon performs on stage with Ray Phiri during a tour to promote his Graceland album.
Image: Penny Tweedie/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

US music veteran Paul Simon who worked closely with late SA jazz musician Ray Phiri has reached out to Ray's grieving family to pay condolences and offer his support. 

Family spokesperson Paul Nkanyane told TshisaLIVE that the Mrs Robinson hitmaker called the Phiri family on Friday and asked to speak to numerous members of the family.

"He called them and offered his condolences. He said that he was shocked by the news and offered to assist them however he could. He asked them what happened and wanted to make sure that everyone was okay," Nkanyane said.

He added that Paul had asked about funeral details and indicated that he would like to attend. 

"He indicated that he would like to come and pay his respects to Ray but did not commit to anything," Nkanyane added.

He said the family was grateful to Paul for his call and offer of support, because they knew about the special relationship Ray and Paul had. The pair worked together on Paul Simon's award-winning Graceland album and tour in the 1980's

"Ray often spoke of Paul and their time together. They were good friends and stayed in touch. It would have made Ray happy to know that his friend had called his family," Paul said.

In an interview with Sunday Times in 2011, Ray revealed that there was "bad blood" between him and Simon, accusing the US star of never giving him credit for the songs they did together and hardly getting any royalties owed to him. It is unclear when, and if, the pair made up.

Ray died in a Nelspruit hospital last week after a battle with lung cancer. His death made headlines across the world, with news of his death reported by the New York Times, BBC, LA Times and Washington Post.

A memorial service for the star will be held at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Thursday, ahead of a funeral service at the same venue this weekend.