Music Monday: R.I.P. Nelson Mandela

by Scott Lydon


Happy Music Monday! As most of us have heard, the legendary Nelson Mandela recently passed away. As the face of the anti-apartheid movement, Mandela was the man so many different pop stars sang to, and like all things 1980s, he eventually became a bit of a fad. Today Scott's saying goodbye to Mandela with a collection of songs about him, or about the times he lived in. He'll start with the big one. You might already be singing it yourself.

The Specials - Free Nelson Mandela


Without this Specials hit, would as many people have even heard of Nelson Mandela? Maybe, but probably not for a while. Nobody would call this a scholarly biography, but in the days before Wikipedia, this was about as efficient a recap as one could find. And a pretty good song to boot.

We've got four more, then it'll be your turn. See you after the jump.

Peter Gabriel - Biko


Although not directly about Mandela, the story of Steve Biko isn't too far away. Biko was interrogated by the South African police in room 619 and somehow sustained serious head injuries, leading to his death shortly afterwards. Although Nelson Mandela survived his interrogation, it probably wasn't too much different overall. This particular live version, ending the 1986 Conspiracy Of Hope tour, is my favorite.

Eddy Grant - Gimme Hope Jo'anna


Eddie Grant wasn't from South Africa, but he certainly understood both the need to stop oppression and a need to make some hooks. The Joanna in this song is, of course, Johannesburg, the home of the Afrikaner minority that ran the government. In 1993, one of those Afrikaners shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela for jointly eliminating apartheid in a relatively peaceful way.

Youssou N'Dour - Nelson Mandela


Possibly the most famous African musician (in America at least) is Senegal-born Youssou N'Dour. Although I don't speak the language, it's pretty obvious that this tribute to Nelson Mandela is a straight-up compliment. You don't make music with such strength and hope for someone you don't admire. N'Dour also dedicated his first album to Mandela while Mandela was in prison.

Labi Siffre - Something Inside So Strong


Although he very likely earned all his money from being sampled by Eminem, Labi Siffre's lovely song about enduring hardship is a perfect closer for a Music Monday about a man who went from prisoner to President. And it's hard to forget a man once he's part of a song. Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela.

Let us just remind you: some images come from the corresponding Wikipedia page and are here under fair use. See you next week.