"This might be one of those U2 records I even like."
-- Bono, on All That You Can't Leave Behind
Column: off the record..., vol. 13-596
December 08, 2013
The global celebration of the life and spirit of Nelson Mandela has already begun, and for the next fortnight much will be reported about this elder statesman's courage, wisdom and strength. From his earliest days as a student of law to his days of revolution which lead to his time on Robben Island as prisoner 466 in the year 1964 (466/64), then to his long walk to freedom and beyond, all of us will be getting a crash course in South Africa's history and the anti-apartheid movement.
Music has served as both instigator and healer in this movement. It was Peter Gabriel's "Biko" that first brought U2 into the anti-apartheid protest. The Guardian has a fantastic article that highlights the South African protest movement and how artists like Special AKA and Hugh Masekela served as catalysts for this movement.
Had it not been for these musicians, The Artists United Against Apartheid song “Sun City” wouldn’t have happened. One could argue U2's “Silver And Gold” wouldn’t have happened either. Spin Magazine's article about the anti-apartheid protest movement is also a must-read. Both articles mention South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. That name should ring a bell with U2 fans as he joined the band onstage for “I Still Haven't Found What I’m Looking For” during their U2 360 Tour stop in Johannesburg.
According to CBS News, Masekela's song “Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)” was inspired from a letter Mandela sent to him on his birthday in 1985.
Music was also used to celebrate Mandela's birthday on several occasions. The first was in 1983 to mark Mandela's 65th birthday at Alexandra Palace in London. Five years later, another concert was held in Britain for his 70th. The Telegraph has another great story recounting this event.
Most recently, his 90th birthday was celebrated with a concert where Bono and Edge contributed a “Happy Birthday” message to Mandela. The year-long 46664 celebration in 2003 brought Bono and Edge to Cape Town to perform “46664 (A Long Walk To Freedom)” at Greenpoint Stadium to shine a hotter spotlight on the HIV/AIDS issue.
The Edge and Bono recently gave some statements on the passing of Mandela from a New York City rooftop for France's Canal+. Bono has written his Mandela eulogy for Time, and earlier this year during Bono spoke on Mandela’s influence during his interview with Charlie Rose. During that interview, Bono mentioned that Mandela's speech at Trafalgar Square inspired him. Mandela’s speech is worth another listen.
Most of the television tributes have already mentioned how much Mandela loved music, and it's music that is an integral part of his legacy. For me, it was music that brought me to the anti-apartheid movement, and I'm sure it was the gateway for many globally to sign the petitions for Mandela's release. There will not be another like Mandela in our lifetime, so these next couple of weeks will be a history lesson for generations to come. Take some time to check out the Nelson Mandela Foundation so his legacy can live on.
The official announcement from U2 on the passing of the torch from Paul McGuinness to Guy Oseary had some very exciting news embedded in it: "Sometime soon, U2 will begin a new adventure around the world."
This is the confirmation I was hoping to hear that my life savings will once again be tapped into for concert tickets and travel. I'm ready to join THAT circus!
When I wrote my OTR column a month ago, little did we all know the changes that would be reported a day later. I even tweeted that my album delay theories were debunked. An interesting point I made about "Ordinary Love" was confirmed by Paul McGuinness, however, when he said to Roger Friedman that the album will come in March, maybe right after the group wins an Oscar for their "Mandela" song. We'll find out soon if the song receives a nod: Golden Globe nominations will be announced on December 12 and Academy Award nominations are on January 16.
"Ordinary Love" has also gotten U2 back on the charts, even if it's only on iTunes. The vinyl release has been a little troublesome for U2 collectors as the majority of the records were released in the US and Canada. According to reports from record store owners, Universal distributed 10,000 vinyls with approximately 6,500 sent to the US, 750 were distributed to both Germany and the UK. I have to wonder if more might be created given the popularity of the song on iTunes in countries where the vinyl was not made available.
And finally ... here are a few more Mandela-related videos:
From the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin, 2003 “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” with Mandela lyrics and brings Mandela on stage
Bono’s support of Mandela Day
2010 Globe and Mail interview with Bono about what Mandela means to him
U2 interview at Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom Premiere in NYC
Have a great week!
© @U2/Lawrence, 2013.