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Nelson Mandela died this evening, South African time. So much can be said about him that, at this moment, we will just refer you to the words of some of those who knew him best, whose words may be found through the links below.
Former US President Jimmy Carter: ‘Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader’
Former US President Bill Clinton: ‘I will never forget my friend Madiba’
President Obama: ‘Let us pause and give thanks that Nelson Mandela lived’
African National Congress: South Africa has lost ‘a colossus, an epitome of humility, equality, justice, peace and the hope of millions’
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is ‘profoundly saddened’ by Nelson Mandela’s death; he ‘showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us’
Muhammad Ali on Nelson Mandela’s death: ‘His was a spirit born free, destined to soar above the rainbows. Today his spirit is soaring through the heavens. He is now forever free’
Meanwhile, what we can do here as well as anywhere is simply to listen to some of the many songs of praise for the man who was both the George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. of the reconstituted Republic of South Africa.
The best song tribute to Nelson Mandela, in my opinion, is 1987′s “Bring Back Nelson Mandela,” by South African superstar Hugh Masekela. (Yes, the lyrics contain a reference to his reuniting with his wife Winnie — which, of course, didn’t work out. Spending 27 years in prison can be hard on a relationship.) Given that its topic is someone who was then nearing 25 years in prison, the infectiousness of the music is amazing — yet somehow appropriate.
In 1984, Special AKA released the celebratory anthem (for a man who would spend six more years in prison), “Free Nelson Mandela.”
And here’s the Amy Winehouse version (not as good — but Amy Winhouse!) for those who’d prefer that.
Hadn’t heard this one, but it contains a very nice montage.
Here’s one that’s not in English. Challenge yourself! (It has subtitles.) Some nice shots and text regarding the history of the ANC’s struggle against apartheid.
I’ll end on a more somber tone, a reminder that Mandela’s life could have easily been ended far sooner — and ingloriously. I imagine that Mandela would like no greater tribute than for us to remember his fallen comrades in the struggle, such as one of his top lieutenants in the ANC, Steven Biko.
For those who want a more chilling, Dylanesque, retelling of this story of the amazing details of Steven Biko’s death after a beating and denial of medical care, there’s this by Tom Paxton. The lyrics are self-explanatory and they’re worth listening to until you understand them. A key line about the apartheid regime’s reaction as Biko’s life ebbed post-beating: “Though a hospital was nearby it was no part of a prison, so they took him to Pretoria, seven-hundred-fifty miles.”
And that should remind us of what dangers Mandela faced, and what made him great, and what made his long and triumphant life so amazing. So mourn … but also celebrate. Thirty years ago, this glorious end, coming after years of his leading his nation, was unimaginable. And yet here we are.