Larry Joe’s upbringing reads like that of many others in South Africa, having been born into a poor family in the Northern Cape and growing up with an alcoholic father and an abused mother. He stole his first loaf of bread at age five, to feed his hungry sister, and his descent into a life of crime, drugs and gangsterism was all but guaranteed.
The only light in an otherwise pitch-black world was music: when Larry was four years old, his father showed him a few chords on the guitar. He learnt the rest himself and loved to play for other people. But the grip of crime was iron-clad, and Larry eventually pushed the boundary too far. Having pulled off a major heist in the town of Douglas, Larry fled to Cape Town, changed his name, and took to the streets. Here he lived for seven years, busking outside shops to earn honest money, and battling his addiction to drugs.
Seven years on, still with a price on his head, Larry made a decision and returned to Douglas to face the music. Enter Aron Turest-Swartz, founding member of South African music sensation ‘Freshlyground’. On this fateful World Aids Day in 2008, he watched, intrigued, as Larry Joe wowed the crowds at a concert in Douglas while prison wardens waited in the wings. The two struck up a friendship, and eventually a collaboration, which saw them producing a music album in the grounds of the Douglas Correctional Facility. When Larry was released three years early, he walked out of jail and onto stage.
The Crazy Life of Larry Joe tells the moving story of one man’s journey away from certain self-destruction in a world characterised by crime and drugs towards personal freedom and a very real chance of stardom as he realises his musical talents and potential through his own extraordinary efforts and the mentorship of others.