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Digital Subscriptions > Classic Pop > Jun-18 > WHEN POP WENT POLITICAL

WHEN POP WENT POLITICAL

STAGED TO SHOW SOLIDARITY WITH THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS POLITICAL PRISONER, WHILE CONCURRENTLY EXPRESSING OPPOSITION TO AN OVERTLY RACIST SYSTEM, THE NELSON MANDELA 70TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE CONCERT – HELD THREE YEARS AFTER LIVE AID – WAS ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF MUSIC MAKING A DIFFERENCE ON A GLOBAL LEVEL. CLASSIC POP REVISITS THE LANDMARK EVENT 30 YEARS ON…
Broadcast to 67 countries and an audience of 600 million, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute Concert took place at a sold-out Wembley Stadium on 11 June 1988

On 11 June 1988, some 75,000 people packed into Wembley Stadium for the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concer t. Broadcast to 67 countries and a worldwide audience of 600 million, the event was staged to mark the forthcoming milestone birthday of the imprisoned anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela.

Both the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the African National Congress credited the event for raising global consciousness of Mandela’s incarceration, while others believed it hastened the demise of apartheid in South Africa.

Its genesis can be traced back to The Special AKA song Nelson Mandela. Released in 1984, the single was a UK Top 10 hit and written by Jerry Dammers.

“An old school friend remembered my antiapartheid activities and told me about a concert that was being staged at Alexandra Palace to commemorate the 65th birthday of someone called Nelson Mandela,” recalls the founding member of The Specials and 2 Tone Records mastermind.

“The concert was organised by Julian Bahula, an exiled South African musician, and the Anti-Apartheid Movement provided literature explaining who Mandela was. I was already working on a African/Latin-sounding tune, so I decided to put lyrics to it and pass the message on.”

A CALL TO ARMS

It was Dali Tambo, the son of exiled African National Congress (ANC) President Oliver Tambo, who approached Dammers with the idea of establishing a collective of British artists opposed to apartheid.

“The aim was to raise awareness about apartheid, Mandela and raise funds for the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the ANC,” explains Dammers.

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