Free Nelson Mandela

Posted by – December 9, 2013

I’ve waited a bit to post this song & video because it’s so celebratory it didn’t seem quite right on the day of Mr. Mandela’s death, but now, maybe it’s time.

This song & video were recorded in 1985 and charted in the UK & was played heavily in Africa. It was most definitely a favorite of any ska fans, recorded as it was by “The Special AKA” – a group of people from The Specials and other ska bands of the time, bands who were intent not just on mixing musical styles but in making sure the bands themselves were diverse.

& It was always such a happy, inspiring, determined song.

It’s hard to explain what it was like the day I turned on the radio to hear some of my favorite DJs crying on the air with the good news that he had, in fact, finally been freed. They played it over & over & over again.

Along with this song by Jesus Jones, it’s one of the very few that really do put me right back in that time & place, but the two times, in some ways, so distinct: 1985 still awash in Reagan/Thatcher, & music was still great. By 1990 you could feel it was all changing: in some ways, “Right Here, Right Now” was the end of optimism, and the stage would soon be set for Nirvana & a much more cynical time. But first, of course, Mandela was freed, we’d optimistically elect Bill Clinton, and the Wall fell.

So in some senses, Mandela’s death after his years as South Africa’s president and as a world ambassador at the age of 95 is really unexpected — because in 1985, it seemed far more likely he would die in jail far short of his 95th birthday. The world is so much better off that he didn’t.

Godspeed Mr. Mandela.

1 Comment on Free Nelson Mandela

  1. divadarya says:

    Those are two incredible songs. I adore everything Specials/Selecter and British Ska.
    Another great anthem is “Asimbonanga” by Johnny Clegg and Sambuca(a very diverse band); there’s even a youtube video with Mandela joining him onstage for this song…

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