Miriam Makeba was one of my star plays on my college radio show “Unforgettable: Black Women of Jazz, Blues, and Soul.” I saw her perform live with Paul Simon on the Graceland tour at Merriweather Post in Maryland. I was in the 2nd row center. Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her family were a couple of rows behind us. Ted Koppel too. Doesn’t get any better than that. Before she took the stage, Simon announced Makeba had an accident and wasn’t able to walk. We yelled, “Wheel her out.” And that they did. I always say, the turning point in the global effort to end apartheid in South Africa was the rise of South Africa’s music. Makeba and Hugh Masekela was the first wave; Paul Simon’s “Graceland” recording and tour was the Tsunami – also the college students who organized and asked administrators and alumni to divest. Shout out to David and Stanley who started Oberlin’s student movement to divest from South Africa during the apartheid years. Makeba and Masekela were forced into exile for over 30 years under apartheid even though Makeba claimed she was not a political singer.
Makeba died Sunday after collapsing on stage during a concert in Italy. It is the way all musicians dream of making the transition. Here are two YouTube clips of her performing “Pata Pata,” which was the last song she sang before her death; and with Paul Simon on the Graceland tour. A shout out to my fellow Obie Amisa Baindu Bright who always requested that I play “The Click Song” on the radio.