Vicky Sampson was born in 1969, to Faye and Victor Sampson. Her father, Victor, was a member of the Golden City Dixies, a travelling vaudeville group. When Sampson was 6 years old, she moved to District 6 with her parents. This was the last time she was with her parents as a family. A year later, she went to live with her grandmother in Bishop Lavis due to her parents having issues. She would be reunited with her mother when she was 10 years old. Her mother had a job as a housekeeper in Bishopscourt. At this time, Sampson was attending school at Cecil Road Primary in Salt River. This meant that she would travel each day from Bishopscourt to Salt River via a bus. She would spend two years at this school, until her mother moved them to Hanover Park.
While living in Hanover Park, Victor Sampson was battling mental health issues. This put huge strain on her parent’s marriage, and when she was 12, they divorced. Victor Sampson would be admitted into Valkenberg mental hospital in his later years. While living in Hanover Park, Sampson went to school at Greenlands Primary and joined the Hanover Park Youth Club. Sampson states that this “was [her] entry into the exciting world of political and community activism and which contributed significantly to making [her] the person [she is] today.” The organisation’s actions included events to raise funds for an old age home, protest action with posters reading slogans such as ‘Down with Vorster’ and even ran a magazine called ‘Grassroots’. The organisation also collaborated with other youth movements such as those from Kensington and Bonteheuwel. While she had been a natural performer from a young age, Sampson’s singing career truly began when she was entered into a talent competition by her aunt which she won. She was also part of a band, named ‘Last Dawn’, in her teenage years. At this point, Samson had dropped out of school at 16 and was working as a runner for an optometrist during the day. In the evenings, she was the lead singer of Last Dawn,
performing at a venue named Last Fiesta. Her career would continue its rise when Sampson’s aunt entered her into the SABC’s ‘Follow That Star’ talent competition in 1983. She placed 2nd, which was enough to claim her a place on a follow up television show, ‘Soft Shoes’. From here, Sampson would travel and perform with different bands in Swaziland (at the ‘Why Not’ night club in Mbabane), Botswana (at the Oasis motel), Mafikeng and Johannesburg over the next few years. In fact, Sampson recounts that her friends and family had thought she had gone into political exile at this time.
In 1990, Sampson was cast in a musical tribute act to Billy Joel by Colin Law, a theatre producer. This began a series of appearances in Colin Law productions, including ‘Elton John’ and ‘Showstoppers’. Sampson states on her website that “Colin was instrumental (pardon the pun) in my development as a performer, not just as a singer.” The next breakthrough in Sampson’s career came after she featured in a music video for a duo act, ‘MarkAlex’, in 1991. Their recording company, Tusk Music, was interested in Sampson and she signed a contract with them at the beginning of 1992. Sampson was at a crossroads at this time, as she had been offered the part of Magenta in Christopher Malcolm’s ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’. Sampson ultimately decided to pursue the record deal and turned down the part. Her first album was named ‘Shine’ and was released by Tusk in 1992. Two songs off the album, ‘Love Will Shine on You’ and ‘Walk on By’ were major hits.
Sampson would record her second album, entitled ‘Zai’, in 1994. The first song on the album, ‘Afrikan Dream’ would become one of the most recognisable songs in South Africa. It was used as the theme song for the 1996 African Cup of Nations; a tournament in which Sampson performed at the opening and closing ceremonies. Bafana Bafana (the South African national men’s soccer team) would go on to win the tournament. This only increased the demand for Afrikan Dream, with the song being ubiquitous on radio stations across the country. Another consequence of the popularity of the song was the high number of corporate functions which Sampson was asked to perform at over the next few years. The album, ‘Zai’, won 4 SAMAs in 1996, namely: best pop album, best video, best female artist, and best director.
Throughout 1997, Sampson performed in Austria, Holland and Germany as well as at several rugby matches in South Africa. In 1999, Sampson performed at President Thabo Mbeki’s inauguration at his personal request. In the same year, ‘Afrikan Dream was used for the National Lottery, despite Sampson not being contacted about it. In 2005, ‘Afrikan Dream’ was nominated for a Song of the Decade award. Sampson had not forgotten her performer roots, however, and auditioned for the role of Killer Queen in the show ‘We Will Rock You’ later that same year. The show would go on tour in 2006 around South Africa. In 2007, Sampson released her third album, ‘License to Sing’, which had tracks that had been recorded in Sweden and was produced by Cedric Samson with the record label, EMI.
In 2008, Sampson sang at Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebration at the Johannesburg Stadium. She would return two years later and perform at a opening of the rebuilt Soccer City stadium in 2010. In 2018, Sampson started work discovering and developing young talent in South Africa, as co-director of a company named Mzanzi Cultural Industries (MCI). MCI took on 46 young people in order to develop and nurture them into exposed and earning artists by passing on the experience that Sampson has gained over her career. MCI’s long term goal is an academy for young artists.
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