View Full Version : Nelson Mandela - South African Icon - Dies at Age 95

December 5th, 2013, 04:58 PM


December 5th, 2013, 06:05 PM
Given Mendela's historical significance, the Times obituary on him is woefully deficient.

3-4 paragraphs on one of the most important historical figues of our time is ridicuous. I hope they augment it.

EDIT: They have seriously augmented it.

December 5th, 2013, 07:11 PM
It's almost impossible to fill the shoes of a giant.


December 5th, 2013, 09:05 PM
Pass laws (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pass_laws)

December 6th, 2013, 09:07 AM
I stood in Mandela's cell on Robben Island in August 2003 while New York City was in the midst of the black out. When you see the quarry where he broke his back (and almost went blind) for so many years and the fact Cape Town is so tantalizingly close...you understand the strength he possessed that carried him for 95 years.

December 6th, 2013, 09:52 AM
April 27, 1994: Mandela votes for the first time.

Dec 10, 1996: President Mandela signs the South Africa Constitution at Sharpeville (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharpeville).

Mandela and former President Clinton peer through the bars of cell #5 on Robben Island.

June 30, 2013: President Obama in cell #5.

Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison in this 8x7 room. He was allowed one letter every 6 months, and one visitor per year. He was not permitted to attend the funerals of his mother and son.

http://www.boerner.net/jboerner/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Nelson_Mandelas_prison_cell_Robben_Island_South_Af rica.jpg

December 6th, 2013, 10:47 AM
It's almost impossible to fill the shoes of a giant.

Sout Africa's current leaders couldn't fill the shoes of an ant.

December 6th, 2013, 03:46 PM
They showed an interview yesterday with his jailer, although I don't know when the actual interview took place. He still lives within sight of the place. He said that Mandela was not allowed to see his own newborn grandchild, but the jailer sneaked him in anyway. He also had a hand signal that he gave Mandel whenever the jailer was bugged so they'd curb their conversations.

This jailer probably kept him feeling as close to human as possible in an inhumane place.

December 6th, 2013, 08:33 PM
Put people like Bill O'Reilly and Rick Santorum together on Fox News, and the odds are good that one of them, maybe both, will say something stupid.


Even if Mandela was a communist, the society he was instrumental in restructuring is not. So why bring up an issue that belongs in another era when speaking about his passing.

Also, it's not true.

Mandela's association with communism was his lifelong friendship with fellow law school student Joe Slovo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Slovo), who was a communist. Communism was outlawed in South Africa, and the government labelled Mandela a communist, adding further justification for his incarceration.

During this time, the Cold War was being played out throughout the African continent. East against West, and South Africa was on the Western side, maybe one of the reasons Margaret Thatcher called Mandela a terrorist. But Mandela was not in any position to exert influence on world opinion; he was not an internationally well-known political figure when first imprisoned. That happened later, and the subject of another post.

When released from prison, Mandela visited Cuba; he also gave a speech at the restart of the communist party in South Africa, but he said, "The ANC is not a communist Party."


As for Rick Santorum, he's an idiot.

Apartheid = Obamacare. Yeah, OK.

December 6th, 2013, 09:41 PM
O'Reilly and Santorum don't necessarily have to be together to say something stupid.

No doubt, their rant was in part based on Mandela's complicated association with Cuba and Castro. The genesis of this association is Cuba's military intervention in Angola on behalf of the of the MLPA who were all but over run by South Africa with Nambia's cooperation on the early 70's. The whole scene was a micro staging ground for the cold war and unfortunately placed the US and the UK in the morally indefensible position of covertly defending the UNITA and FNLA (who were allied with South Africa) and created a de facto alliance between the ANC and Cuba. Hence Thatcher's comments.

No doubt Mandela was grateful to Castro. But that does not make him a communist. South Africa was never close to becoming a communist nation.

December 6th, 2013, 10:28 PM
Re: The Communist Connection ...

From the NY TIMES CITY ROOM (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/the-day-a-newly-freed-mandela-came-to-new-york/?hpw&rref=nyregion)

The Day a Newly Freed Mandela Came to New York

... “The thing that fascinated me most about this great man was his total absence of bitterness,” Mr. Dinkins said. “He was the same always, whether playing with my grandchildren or being interviewed by Ted Koppel on ‘Nightline.’ The way I remember it, Ted Koppel said, ‘Well, now, the Communists….’ Mandela said, ‘They were the only ones who helped us. Next question.’” ...

December 7th, 2013, 06:21 AM
Mandela's association with communism was his lifelong friendship with fellow law school student Joe Slovo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Slovo), who was a communist. Communism was outlawed in South Africa, and the government labelled Mandela a communist, adding further justification for his incarceration.

I read the Wiki article on Mandela just to address this point with someone else yesterday. I won't quote it here since all it says is the documentation is unclear, but it is suggested that Mandela may have been a CP member, at least on paper, during the late 1950s.

But who cares? How many allies did black South Africans have in the 1950s/60s/70s? Whatever their sins, Communists have almost always -- I want to be categorical but there is always a yahoo in the group somewhere -- about race & racism. The Communist Party of SA, an outlawed group, was about the only racially integrated civil or political organization in South Africa prior to the great changes of the 1980s.

Another issue my friend raised is the ANC's armed struggle, which Mandela endorsed in the late 1950s, although he initially, and probably naively, wanted all anti-Apartheid violence to be directed solely at sabotage, i.e. at property and not people. Over two decades the ANC was responsible for perhaps sixty-three deaths and hundreds of injuries (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/southafrica/8304153/Nelson-Mandelas-Spear-of-the-Nation-the-ANCs-armed-resistance.html) among innocent civilians. That isn't to be sweep under the carpet, but it must be placed context of the brutalities of Apartheid.

Mandela was in prison during the ANC's period of armed struggle. After his release, he did all he could to steer a course away from vengeance and toward reconciliation.

December 7th, 2013, 06:30 AM
PS on O'Reilly. I always wonder about media hounds like O'Reilly. Is he really that stupid, or is it all just part of the show?

Maybe it doesn't matter. If you pose as an idiot, you become idiotic: "You are what you pretend to be, so be careful about who you pretend to be.” (Vonnegut, Mother Night)

December 7th, 2013, 01:59 PM
Another issue my friend raised is the ANC's armed struggle, which Mandela endorsed in the late 1950s, although he initially, and probably naively, wanted all anti-Apartheid violence to be directed solely at sabotage, i.e. at property and not people.It's strange that O'Reilly chose to mention communism, which has little relevance today; but then anything even hinting at communism or socialism is a buzz-word with the US far-right.

O'Reilly could have spoken about terrorism, a topic of great significance. What do we do about places like Syria, arm the rebels? That discussion gets complicated, and not suitable for TV sound-bites.

In the early 1960s, the ANC was considered a terrorist organization by the UK and US. After Sharpeville, Mandela was a founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). The ANC predated the 1948 elections, after which the National Party legislated the apartheid laws based on four racial groups - White, Black, Coloured, and Indian, further deteriorating the rights of Africans. That this election occurred after WWII is significant.

In 1941, FDR and Winston Churchill issued the Atlantic Charter, which outlined global goals for a postwar world. The 1943 ANC goals for South Africa (http://www.nelsonmandela.org/omalley/index.php/site/q/03lv01538/04lv01600/05lv01609/06lv01610.htm). The post 1948 South Africa must have been a devastating disillusionment.

It seems the move toward violence was not impulsive; many alternatives were debated. Mandela was at the front of it; whether or not he was a terrorist comes down to one's point of view.

At the 1964 Rivonia Trial, Mandela and co-defendants faced the death penalty. Excerpts from his statement to the court:

In my youth in the Transkei I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the fatherland. The names of Dingane and Bambata, Hintsa and Makana, Squngthi and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were praised as the glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have done in relation to the charges made against me in this case.

Having said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites.

I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto we Sizwe, and that I played a prominent role in its affairs until I was arrested in August 1962.

But the violence which we chose to adopt was not terrorism. We who formed Umkhonto were all members of the African National Congress, and had behind us the ANC tradition of non-violence and negotiation as a means of solving political disputes. We believe that South Africa belongs to all the people who live in it, and not to one group, be it black or white. We did not want an interracial war, and tried to avoid it to the last minute.

In the words of my leader, Chief Lutuli, who became President of the ANC in 1952, and who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:

"who will deny that thirty years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately, and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past thirty years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all".

He ended his statement with:
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Full text (http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=3430)

December 8th, 2013, 04:06 AM
What a...dick.

Dick Cheney Didn't Regret His Vote Against Freeing Nelson Mandela, Maintained He Was A 'Terrorist'

By Nick Wing

In 1986, Nelson Mandela -- the former president of South Africa who died Thursday at the age of 95 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/nelson-mandela-dead-dies-south-africa_n_1699777.html) -- was serving the 23rd year of what would ultimately be a 27-year prison sentence. The Western world was finally acknowledging the true horrors of Apartheid, a system of racial segregation that denied basic rights to blacks -- including citizenship and the right to vote -- and brutally oppressed a generation of South Africans fighting for equality.

In the U.S. Congress, lawmakers were ready to show their opposition to the South African regime with the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d099:HR04868:@@@R), a bill that called for tough sanctions and travel restrictions on the nation and its leaders, and for the repeal of apartheid laws and release of political prisoners like Mandela, then leader of the African National Congress (ANC).

The measure passed with bipartisan support, despite strong and largely Republican opposition. President Ronald Reagan was among those most opposed to the bill, and when he finally vetoed the measure over its support of the ANC, which he maintained was a "terrorist organization," it took another vote by Congress to override it (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/99-1986/s692). Among the Republicans who repeatedly voted against the measure was future Vice President Dick Cheney, then a Republican congressman from Wyoming.

Cheney's staunch resistance to the Anti-Apartheid Act arose as an issue during his future campaigns on the presidential ticket, but the Wyoming Republican has never said he regretted voting the way he did. In fact, in 2000, he maintained that he'd made the right decision.

“The ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organization," Cheney said (http://www.commondreams.org/views/080300-102.htm) on ABC's "This Week." "I don't have any problems at all with the vote I cast 20 years ago.''

Cheney went on to call Mandela (http://nypost.com/2000/07/31/cheney-stands-on-congressional-record/) a "great man" who had "mellowed" in the decade after his release from prison.

In 2004, Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards tore into his counterpart's congressional voting record, calling out Cheney (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec04/runningmates_10-06.html) for his vote against freeing Mandela. Shortly after, Cheney historian (http://www.amazon.com/Dick-The-Man-Who-President/dp/1565848403) John Nichols said that he'd spoken to Mandela about Cheney's record and worldview. Like many, Mandela was concerned (http://www.democracynow.org/2004/10/6/a_look_at_how_cheney_opposed):

He’s very blunt about it he says one of the many reasons why he fears Dick Cheney’s power in the United States, and Mandela does say, he understands that Cheney is effectively the President of the United States, he says, one of the many reasons that he fears Dick Cheney’s power is that in the late 1980’s when even prominent Republicans like Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich were acknowledging the crime of Apartheid, Dick Cheney maintained the lie that the ANC was a terrorist organization and a fantasy that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist leader who deserved to be in jail. Frankly it begs very powerful question. If Dick Cheney’s judgment was that bad in the late 1980’s, why would we believe that it’s gotten any better in the early 21st century?

A handful of sitting lawmakers also voted against freeing Mandela. GOP Reps. Joe Barton (Texas), Howard Coble (N.C.) and Hal Rogers (Ky.) opposed the Anti-Apartheid Act throughout the legislative process. Texas Rep. Ralph Hall, then a Democrat, voted against the bill, but did not vote on the veto override.


December 8th, 2013, 06:33 PM
What is the history of this? And I am only asking a valid question, being that I'd never heard anything like this attributed to him before, so my question is not a confrontational one and I don't want this turned into a thing here. The source of this copied post notwithstanding, is there any possible truth to this? No matter if you get your story from censorbugbear, cnn, wiki, mother jones, bio, etc, you get different stories. In part:


‘Brothers and Sisters, Learn from Mandela’ (http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=nw20100718222032558C525906) In his book Long Walk to Freedom Nelson Mandela wrote that as a leading member of the ANC’s executive committee, he had “personally signed off” in approving these acts of terrorism, the pictures and details of which follow below. This is the horror which Mandela had “signed off” for while he was in prison – convicted for other acts of terrorism after the Rivonia trial. The late SA president P.W. Botha told Mandela in 1985 that he could be a free man as long as he did just one thing: ‘publicly renounce violence’. Mandela refused. That is why Mandela remained in prison until the appeaser Pres F W de Klerk freed him unconditionally. The bottom line? Nelson Mandela never publicly renounced the use of violence to further the ‘cause of freedom’.When Mandela was arrested on his Rivonia farm hideout near Johannesburg, the following munitions and bomb-making equipment were confiscated with him and his comrades.""
Read more at http://www.censorbugbear.org/black-racism/terrorism/nelson-mandela-the-bombing-record#sVkxtgVDrDDMqwCq.99

December 8th, 2013, 08:41 PM
What is the history of this?

The source of this copied post notwithstanding, is there any possible truth to this? No matter if you get your story from censorbugbear, cnn, wiki, mother jones, bio, etc, you get different stories.I'm not sure what you're asking.

Did the Church St bombing happen? Did others occur? Did Mandela come to endorse violence?

Yes, they are matters of public record. But I assume you already knew that, so what are you asking? Is it about the viewpoint of censorbugbear, which concludes that these acts happened in a vacuum, that there was no history of violence, almost all of it by the SA government?

As I said, it depends on your point of view.

The Jan 31 1985 statement by Botha at parliament, in which he offered to release Mandela from prison, was conditional on his "rejection of violence as a political weapon." There were five previous offers which included exile to Transkei.

Mandela's reply was read publicly a month later:
I am a member of the African National Congress. I have always been a member of the African National Congress and I will remain a member of the African National Congress until the day I die. Oliver Tambo is much more than a brother to me. He is my greatest friend and comrade for nearly fifty years. If there is any one amongst you who cherishes my freedom, Oliver Tambo cherishes it more, and I know that he would give his life to see me free. There is no difference between his views and mine.

I am surprised at the conditions that the government wants to impose on me. I am not a violent man. My colleagues and I wrote in 1952 to [Daniel François] Malan asking for a round table conference to find a solution to the problems of our country, but that was ignored. When [Johannes Gerhardus] Strijdom was in power, we made the same offer. Again it was ignored. When [Hendrik] Verwoerdwas in power we asked for a national convention for all the people in South Africa to decide on their future. This, too, was in vain.

It was only then, when all other forms of resistance were no longer open to us, that we turned to armed struggle. Let Botha show that he is different to Malan, Strijdom and Verwoerd. Let him renounce violence. Let him say that he will dismantle apartheid. Let him unban the people’s organisation, the African National Congress. Let him free all who have been imprisoned, banished or exiled for their opposition to apartheid. Let him guarantee free political activity so that people may decide who will govern them.

I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom. Too many have died since I went to prison. Too many have suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their mothers and to their fathers who have grieved and wept for them. Not only I have suffered during these long, lonely, wasted years. I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared to sell the birthright of the people to be free. I am in prison as the representative of the people and of your organisation, the African National Congress, which was banned.

What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? What freedom am I being offered when I may be arrested on a pass offence? What freedom am I being offered to live my life as a family with my dear wife who remains in banishment in Brandfort? What freedom am I being offered when I must ask for permission to live in an urban area? What freedom am I being offered when I need a stamp in my pass to seek work? What freedom am I being offered when my very South African citizenship is not respected?

Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Herman Toivo ja Toivo, when freed, never gave any undertaking, nor was he called upon to do so. I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free.Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return.

Censorbugbear said of Mandela's release:
That is why Mandela remained in prison until the appeaser Pres F W de Klerk freed him unconditionally. The bottom line? Nelson Mandela never publicly renounced the use of violence to further the ‘cause of freedom’.As trite as it is to put such a tag on a long history, is "the bottom line" the day de Klerk agreed to release Mandela, or the day Mandela walked out of prison.

December 14th, 2013, 05:53 PM
Hugh Masekela - Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela) live

From Paul Simon's "Graceland - The African Concert" (Zimbabwe, 1987)

"Not only was Nelson Mandela the most famous modern day political prisoner, he was also one of the biggest fans of Hugh Masakela. So great, in fact, that he was able to smuggle a letter to him in April 1985 (for Masakela's birthday) from Pollsmoor Prison, which wished him luck on his recording projects and other good tidings. Masakela was so moved by this letter that he wrote this fabulous anthem, which envisioned Mandela walking freely down the streets of South Africa. The melody is a buoyant, anthemic, and grand series of chords and trumpet riffs, filled with the sense of camaraderie and celebration that are referred to in the lyrics. The vocal choir during the joyous chorus is extremely moving and life affirming. Recorded in 1986 for his Tomorrow album, the song and it's wish became a reality when Mandela was released in 1990, and it was played during his many visits to America following his release, as well as on numerous television broadcasts. A truly classic modern day folk song, it remains a favorite of Masakela's live repertoire and was rightfully included on the fabulous 2001 Columbia collection The Best of Hugh Masakela."

A song review by Matthew Greenwald,http://www.allmusic.com/song/bring-hi... (http://www.allmusic.com/song/bring-him-back-home-nelson-mandela-mt0004189288)


December 14th, 2013, 06:09 PM
Remembering Days of Miracle and Wonder

Paul Simon on Mandela’s Role in ‘Graceland’

Anna Zieminski/LGI
Nelson Mandela and Paul Simon in 1992.

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/arts/music/paul-simon-on-mandelas-role-in-graceland.html)
By Paul Simon
December 13, 2013

Bring back Nelson Mandela,
Bring him back home to Soweto.
We want to see him walking down the streets
Of South Africa, tomorrow.

After the bomb-sniffing dogs checked out the arena, after the band walked past the protesters with their placards, after the sound check and the opening numbers of the 1987 “Graceland” tour through Europe and the United States, when the audience was on its feet, dancing and singing — somewhere about midway through one of those first astonishing shows — Hugh Masekela approached the microphone and sang the opening lines of his song “ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG3oKb2JQow)Bring Him Back Home (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG3oKb2JQow).” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NG3oKb2JQow) For a moment, there was silence in the hall, as everyone understood the pain and suffering of South Africa and the longing for the return of the man imprisoned on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela.

Then, when Hugh finished the opening verse, he put his trumpet to his lips and played a solo of irresistible rhythmic intensity, and the crowd burst into cheers and started to dance again to the joyous music from the sad land of South Africa.

This week, as we mourn Mr. Mandela and celebrate his life, I am thinking once again of my life-altering experiences with “Graceland.” There was the almost mystical affection and strange familiarity I felt when I first heard South African music. Later, there was the visceral thrill of collaborating with South African musicians onstage. Add to this potent mix the new friendships I made with my band mates, and the experience becomes one of the most vital in my life.

Most, but not all, of the “Graceland” troupe were fervent supporters of the African National Congress, and many had known Mr. Mandela personally or had meaningful memories of him. Hugh, exiled from his homeland since the early 1960s, recalled growing up with the Mandela family as close friends. Hugh’s former wife, Miriam Makeba, also a South African exile, was a longtime friend of Mr. Mandela and his second wife, Winnie.

Bakithi Kumalo, our bassist and the man responsible for that magical and impossible-to-play bass lick on “You Can Call Me Al,” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq-gYOrU8bA) recalled growing up in a house in Soweto not far from where the Mandelas lived. He remembered standing outside their home, singing freedom songs and, using Mr. Mandela’s clan name, chanting, “Madiba come home!”

Ray Phiri, our extraordinary guitarist, was a friend and follower of the anti-apartheid leader Steven Biko. Barney Rachabane, who played sax and pennywhistle, had to move his family from their home in Soweto to a nearby hotel every night, while his brother and cousins defended their goods from looters and anti-A.N.C. blacks. On long bus rides after gigs, passionate political debate alternated with music talk.

But then there was Ladysmith Black Mambazo (http://www.mambazo.com/profile.php). Its founder and leader, Joseph Shabalala, was from the Township of Ladysmith in KwaZulu, governed by the Inkhatha Freedom Party, led by the Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Mr. Shabalala was a proud Zulu and essentially apolitical, but there was a long history of tribal animosity, dating back centuries, between the Zulus and the Xhosa peoples. Most of the African National Congress leadership, including Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki, were Xhosa, as were both Mr. Mandela and Miriam, who wouldn’t speak to the members of Black Mambazo.

But the backstage tension was never revealed to the outside world. Hugh, as gifted a diplomat as he was a musician, protected the image of the “Graceland” performers as a unified troupe, and, despite centuries of old tribal wounds, made sure that we were united.

In fact, the music of the “Graceland” album represented a unified black South African culture, even though it came from many different tribal heritages. “The Boy in the Bubble” is an example of the modal accordion music of the Sotho people. “I Know What I Know” is Shangaan in origin. “Homeless” is Zulu choral music, while “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” “Gumboots” and “You Can Call Me Al” were township jive songs, urban grooves that were straight from the streets of Soweto, where people of different ethnic origins coexisted under the boot of a racist South African government. “Graceland” was united by the joy of shared music and the sorrow of apartheid.

On Feb. 11, 1990, Mr. Mandela was finally released from prison, and, in 1992, the “Graceland” tour went to South Africa. This was an enormously emotional event for all of us, but particularly for Hugh and Miriam, who were free at last to go home. A reception in our honor was given by the A.N.C. and hosted by Mr. Mandela, where I introduced him to Mr. Shabalala. One was a Xhosa and one a Zulu, but the men embraced, and Mr. Mandela called Ladysmith Black Mambazo “South Africa’s cultural ambassadors.” In 1993, they accompanied Madiba when he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was Mr. Mandela’s nature to bring people together, not to separate them by tribe or race. In his presidential inaugural address, he famously said: “Peace to you all, Black, White, Yellow, Red, Small, Big. Peace!”

For the 25th anniversary of the release of “Graceland,” in 2012, our old troupe reunited. Sadly, it was without Miriam, who died in 2008. As it happened, we performed in Amsterdam on July 18, Mr. Mandela’s birthday. As Hugh came to the mike to perform “Bring Him Back Home,” he introduced the song with these words: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4I_9OXtKUo) “The beautiful old men who negotiated the way to our freedom in South Africa are now very aged, and some of them have already left us. But we’d like to start by asking you to shake some serious booty for those old men and for Nelson Mandela, who is 94 years old today!”

That evening at dinner, Hugh was reminiscing about the Mandela he knew as a friend and inspirational figure. He said he’d been talking to Mr. Mandela on the phone, and when they hung up, he walked directly to the piano and wrote “Bring Him Back Home.” Another night, Hugh told me, Mr. Mandela called to tell him that he was concerned about Miriam’s health, that she wasn’t taking care of herself.

“I think you should call her and talk to her seriously about her behavior,” Mr. Mandela said.

Hugh, who was no longer married to Miriam, said, “No, I think it would be more effective if you called her.”

“Oh no,” Mr. Mandela replied. “I’m afraid of her.”

Actually, we were all afraid of Miriam, whether her anger was aroused by political disagreement, a backbeat in the wrong place or, in my case, a harmony in “Under African Skies” that was not to her liking. She could intimidate even the man who was not defeated by 27 years in a Robben Island prison cell.

In a sense, the most amazing thing about Mr. Mandela is that he is not a fiction. He actually lived in our lifetime. The qualities he embodied — dignity, compassion, mercy and forgiveness — hark back to a morality we’ve come to idealize and long for in our leaders today.

“Bring Him Back Home” is as relevant now as it was when it was written in the mid-1980s. Where it was once a demand, today it is a lament from the heart of humanity for the values that Mr. Mandela cherished. Perhaps it’s pessimistic to say that we won’t realize his vision anytime soon. Pessimists are usually right.

Nevertheless, Mr. Mandela was an optimist, and his optimism changed music and changed the world. After attending a concert by the great South African musician Johnny Clegg, Mr. Mandela said, “It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world and at peace with myself.”

May he rest in peace.

Paul Simon is a singer and songwriter.

© 2013 The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 14th, 2013, 06:28 PM
The very fierce Miriam Makeba: 1966; Music & Interview

Her music was banned in South Africa in 1962 ...


December 14th, 2013, 06:29 PM

December 14th, 2013, 11:01 PM
Graceland is an awesome album. Simon's best.