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Music and Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday at age 95, inspired some great music. Here is a story from MTV on Mandela’s musical legacy:

Nelson Mandela, the iconic anti-apartheid leader who helped end nearly 50 years of racial segregation by a white minority government in South Africa, died on Thursday (December 5) at the age of 95 after a series of lung infections. During his lifetime his battle to end apartheid was supported by musicians from around the world.

As early as the mid-1980s, ska band the Special AKA released a protest song called “Free Nelson Mandela,” which would give way to large-scale concerts and tributes like London’s Wembley stadium performance (also known as the Free Nelson Mandela Concert). All aimed to help raise awareness of Mandela’s brave work to end the practice of segregation in South Africa. Later, music-loving Mandela would even reveal that he was a major fan of U.K. pop sensations the Spice Girls. (Continue Reading…)

“Free Nelson Mandela,” presented with a nice slideshow, is above. It was written by band member Jerry Dammers.

Wikipedia has the lineup for “Sun City” (better known as “Ain’t Gonna Play Sun City), which was written and co-produced (with Arthur Baker) by Steve Van Zandt, a longtime member of the E Street Band. The video, probably the best single-issue celebrity musicians one-offs, was a product of Artists United Against Apartheid. A lot of talent was involved:

When Van Zandt was finished writing “Sun City”, he, Baker and Schechter spent the next several months searching for artists to participate in recording it. Van Zandt initially declined to invite Bruce Springsteen, not wanting to take advantage of their friendship, but Schechter had no problem asking himself; Springsteen accepted the invitation. Van Zandt was also shy about calling legendary jazz artist Miles Davis, whom Schechter also contacted; with minimal persuasion, Davis also accepted. Eventually, Van Zandt, Baker and Schechter would gather a wide array of artists, including Kool DJ HercGrandmaster Melle MelThe Fat BoysRuben BladesBob DylanHerbie HancockRingo Starr and his son Zak StarkeyLou ReedRun DMCPeter GabrielDavid RuffinEddie KendricksDarlene LoveBobby WomackAfrika BambaataaKurtis BlowJackson Browne and then-girlfriend Daryl HannahU2George Clinton,Keith RichardsRonnie WoodPeter WolfBonnie RaittHall & OatesJimmy CliffBig YouthMichael MonroePeter GarrettRon CarterRay BarrettoGil-Scott HeronNona HendryxPete TownshendPat BenatarClarence Clemons, and Joey Ramone. (Continue Reading…)

One of the more amusing things about Mandela and music–and the world’s way of being ironic–is that he was a Spice Girls fan. I guess he was Courageous Spice.

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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.