On this date in 1964, Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment during the Rivonia Trial; his struggle would later inspire several notable songs, one of them is the music video here, “Nelson Mandela” (known in some versions as “Free Nelson Mandela”) by The Special A.K.A., released in 1984. It was a protest against the imprisonment of Mandela and is considered a significant anti-apartheid song.
Jerry Dammers, the keyboard player and primary songwriter told Radio Times: “I knew very little about Mandela until I went to an anti-apartheid concert in London in 1983, which gave me the idea for ‘Nelson Mandela’. I never knew how much impact the song would have: it was a hit around the world, and it got back into South Africa & was played at sporting events and ANC rallies. It became an anthem.”
Unlike most protest songs, the track by the new-Specials is upbeat and celebratory, drawing on musical influences from South Africa. The song peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart and was immensely popular in Africa.
Three other notable songs that were inspired by Nelson Mandela:
- “Nelson Mandela” by Youssou N’Dour (1986) – It’s a call to the world by the Senegalese singer to push for Mandela’s release from prison
- “Mandela Day” by Simple Minds – It was written for Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute, a concert held at Wembley Stadium in London, June 1988.
- “Ordinary Love” by U2 – It was written for the biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and won the 2014 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
Your legacy will live on forever, Nelson Mandela!
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Featured image via Billboard.