By John Ensor •
Published: 07 Dec 2023 • 14:10
Image of Benjamin Zephaniah.
Credit: official Benjamin Zephaniah/Instagram.com
AFTER being diagnosed with a serious illness just eight weeks ago, the renowned poet and actor Benjamin Zephaniah died today at the age of 65.
Many fans of the hit show Peaky Blinders knew him as the character Jeremiah Jesus, but Benjamin Zephaniah was so much more. Known on his official Instagram page as a ‘poet, writer, musician & trouble maker,’ without the slightest hint of his talents as an actor.
Benjamin Zephaniah’s passing at the age of 65 marks the end of a significant era in British arts, writes Variety.
Zephaniah, widely known for his appearances in Peaky Blinders, died on Thursday, December 7. His official Instagram account revealed that he had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour.
The announcement read: ‘It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the death of our beloved Husband, Son and Brother in the early hours of this morning the 7th December 2023. Benjamin was diagnosed with a brain tumor 8 weeks ago.
‘Benjamin’s wife was by his side throughout and was with him when he passed. We shared him with the world and we know many will be shocked and saddened by this news. Benjamin was a true pioneer and innovator, he gave the world so much. Through an amazing career including a huge body of poems, literature, music, television and radio, Benjamin leaves us with a joyful and fantastic legacy.’
Tributes have poured in from many people inspired by his work and social commentaries: ‘So saddened and shocked by this news. The world has lost a true legend that stood up for his amazing beliefs. We need more Benjamin Zephaniah’s in this world,’ wrote one.
Another heartfelt tribute read: ‘People of my generation often credit Harry Potter with sparking their love of reading, but for me it was when I first read Refugee Boy.
‘Fortunate to have met and worked with Benjamin a few times whilst working for an animal welfare NGO. He was by far the coolest and most genuine person I have ever met. My thoughts are with Benjamin’s loved ones at this time.’
Born and raised in Birmingham, England, Zephaniah moved to London and released his first poetry collection, ‘Pen Rhythm’, at just 22 years old in 1980. He authored 13 additional poetry volumes, often delving into political themes.
His 1985 work ‘The Dread Affair’ critiqued the British legal system, while 1990’s ‘Rasta Time in Palestine’ shared his insights from a trip to Palestine. Beyond poetry, Zephaniah wrote several novels, plays, and a 2018 autobiography, ‘The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah’.
Zephaniah’s screen appearances added another dimension to his artistic contributions. He became a familiar face as Jeremiah Jesus in Peaky Blinders, featuring in 14 episodes across six seasons. Zephaniah’s diverse acting portfolio also included appearances in EastEnders and The Bill.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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