Also known as Dollar Brand. He became known for compositions that reflected his childhood in multicultural Cape Town.
He was a member of The Jazz Epistles, the first black South African musicians to record a jazz LP.
He reacted to the political conditions and apartheid in South Africa with several pieces, including Mannenberg (or Capetown Fringe), which was dubbed the unofficial national anthem of South Africa.
He married jazz singer Sathima Bea Benjamin, with whom he had two sons, Tsakwe and New York underground rapper Jean Grae.
He idolized Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk.