AND NELSON MANDELA
group simple minds were the first act to agree
to play a concert in 1988 to free Nelson Mandela.
A string of big-name bands had refused as
it was a controversial issue but after the
minds signed up, dozens of others joined them.
On Friday the band starred in the former South
African president's 90th birthday party at
Hyde Park. Today singer Jim Kerr writes about
his relationship with Mandela.
- 29th June 2008 (UK)
I FIRST became
aware of Nelson Mandela after hearing the
song Free Nelson Mandela written by The Specials'
Jerry Dammer - that really focused it for
So it's a classic
case of when people say "Does music matter?",
In this case,
it got the message home. As a band, we were
starting to tour the world and examine more
of what was going on.
In the early
days, we had a following in South Africa in
Cape Town and Johannesburg but we couldn't
play there - so we wanted to find out why.
If I can describe
the mood of Jerry...he's a low-key guy.Hecame
up to our manager's office in Edinburgh with
members of Rock Against Racism and the Anti-Apartheid
He had a defeated
look about him. He had tried to get a couple
of big-name acts to play a concert for Mandela
- who was still incarcerated in Robben Island
- and they hadn't been willing to take part.
This was just
a couple of years after Live Aid. Jerry had
hit a wall. He'd gone to see Madonna play
at Wembley and began asking merchandisers,
roadies and production staff who'd be a good
act to get on board for a Mandela show. Time
and time again he was told - Simple Minds.
to what he had to say and it only took us
minutes to throw our hat into the ring. At
that time Mandela was a political hot potato
and some people regarded him as a terrorist.
They said: 'Why are you trying to free him?'
We didn't have any worries about that.
We'd been used
to having it a wee bit rough because the previous
year we had campaigned for Amnesty International.
was they only supported non-violent protests.
But I was convinced - as many other people
were - that in South Africa the ANC had tried
a non-violent approach for years and had got
In fact, their
leaders were getting locked up. It wasn't
the Live Aid thing where there was no argument
against famine and starving children with
We got it in
the neck from Tory MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn,
who called us 'pure scum'. That was par for
to now think of Mandela the man...because
for almost three decades he was a myth. He
even seen a picture of him.
And the only one published was from years
previously. So it was really interesting to
see the flesh-and-blood Mandela.
When I saw him
being released, head held high - that symbolic
march where he seemed unbowed - it was amazing.
through the years, it's been very hard to
detect any bitterness.
He's had incredible
We wrote the
song Mandela Day for that Wembley Stadium
show in 1988. Last week we were rehearsing
it with the Soweto Gospel Choir - to perform
on Friday - and hearing their voices was amazing.
Burchill and I looked at each other and thought...this
is just perfect. It struck me how at the time
it was written we were anticipating Mandela
one day being free. We felt there was a real
momentum which couldn't be stopped.
I vividly remember
Mandela appearing at Wembley in the concert
which was staged after he'd left Robben Island.
There was an
incredible excitement when he appeared in
one of the stadium's stands. It was clear
the times had changed.
Now, if I walk
for 20 minutes from my hotel in London to
Trafalgar Square, there's a statue of him.
So much for somebody who was seen as a terrorist.
had incredible impact as a political leader,
a peacemaker and a figurehead. He's also everybody's
favourite grandpappy...from Naomi Campbell
to The Spice Girls. The music at the concert
reflects that, judging by the diversity of
acts who took part.
Last week I
met members of his family and they said: 'You're
the guy who sings that song.' It was a very
concert, hyde park, london PREVIEW
have been added to the line up for Nelson
Mandela’s 90th birthday concert. Frontman
Jim Kerr says the band are honoured to be
part of the event in London’s Hyde Park
on June 27 - 20 years after they took part
in the Free Nelson Mandela concert in the
imprisoned for 27 years after opposing apartheid
in South Africa. After his release in 1990,
he successfully campaigned against apartheid
and became the country’s President.
Kerr told Scotland’s
Daily Record newspaper: “For us, it’s
really, really special because it’s
20 years to the day when we took part in a
concert at Wembley Stadium.
in very different circumstances. Mandela was
very much a mysterious man imprisoned on Robben
Island. I will never forget how good he made
us feel on his release in 1990, when he told
a room full of different artists that when
no voice was allowed, he would somehow always
hear the voice of the artists.”
for the spectacular concert also includes
Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis, Annie Lennox,
Queen, Razorlight, Sugababes and possibly
The event will
raise money for Nelson Mandela’s 46664
campaign, which raises awareness about AIDS
in Africa and across the globe.
is named after Mandela’s prison number
from the time he spent in jail on Robben Island.
In keeping with the theme, 46,664 tickets
will go on sale on Friday (09.05.08).