Johnny Clegg, a UK-born South African white artist, has to be one of the least formatted artist to ever break the main audience in France.
Popular since the early 80s in South Africa along with his band Juluka, Johnny Clegg released the hit song Scatterlings Of Africa in 1982. In 1985, he released a solo album Thirld World Child. This latter included a new version of the song Scatterlings Of Africa which started to gain popularity elsewhere, especially in France.
Along with his studio band Savuka, he recorded and released Third World Child again in 1987. The album became a surprise hit, entering at #16, it quickly raised to the Top 10 spending the entire summer on it, peaking at #3. The single was a hit as well, peaking at #8 on an extensive run. The album was certified Gold twice for 100,000 sales, one of the very few albums that received such treatment. The new certification was coming one month after the second Gold award, which would be introducing the 2xGold award, so the SNEP decided to allow such albums to be certified twice in 1987. The only other album on this same situation was A Momentary Lapse Of Reason by Pink Floyd. It sold a calculated 242,000 units during the year.
Almost dropping out of charts during the Christmas season, the album was a surprise hit again in 1988, this time even stronger. The second single came in seven months after the first one. Asimbonanga (Mandela) ended up with an impressive seven weeks at #2, stopped only by debut hit of Florent Pagny that would become one of the best selling artists of the 90s. Supported by this smash single, extensive touring and also by the fact the previous single was featured on Rain Man movie, Third World Child climbed all the way to the top. It dislodged Johnny Hallyday live album Johnny A Bercy.
Even Renaud new album, follow up of monster record Mistral Gagnant, has been able to top Third World Child during only one bi-weekly chart, this later returning to the summit just after. One month later, A-Ha (#3), Sade (#4) and Michel Jonasz (#5), all strong sellers in France at the time, failed to disturb Johnny Clegg and Renaud albums, highlighting how huge they were.
Ironically, in June Third World Child prevented Shadow Man, the new album by Johnny Clegg & Savuka, to take the crown. Both albums remained at #1-2 during six consecutive weeks. Some ten weeks after its release, Shadow Man ultimately removed its predecessor from the top after that one accumulated an impressive 14 weeks on it. By the end of the year this LP sold a calculated 691,000 copies, on top of 1987 sales to go past 3xPlatinum (900,000) criteria. Although not charting anymore, the record crossed the million mark when certified Diamond in 1990 along with their new hit album Cruel Crazy Beautiful World.
In October 1993, a Zénith concert pushed this record back on charts at #40 for one week, it is the last time it was ever seen as the popularity of the artist went downhill just after that. With five years of strong catalog sales up to 1994 the album still went up to 1,2 million copies sold. It sold an estimated 10,000 units a year for the rest of the 90s and 60,000 since.
Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,310,000 copies.
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Sources: SNEP, Nielsen, Platine.