I first saw Miriam Makeba on the Ed Sullivan show, I think. She was introduced to America by Harry Belafonte, which is another reason I love him. She not only brought African rhythm and clothing to us, she was the first to wear her hair short and natural, ushering in “the Afro.” I can remember, although it’s incredible to do so, how shocking her short, natural, un-Europeanized hair looked to white eyes. Shocking but beautiful.
Miriam Makeba — who came to be known as Mama Africa — is no longer with us, but she left a legacy that may never be equaled. She spread the beauty of Africa all over the world. She helped free Nelson Mandela. She lived in exile for years because of her courage and outspokenness.
Her father was Xhosa (like the hero of The Gods Must Be Crazy), and one of her most famous songs is called “the Click song” — called that, that is, by those of us who can’t speak Xhosa!
I’ve never heard a version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight that I didn’t like, but my favorite is this one by Makeba.
And I found what’s probably one of the first appearances of hers that I ever saw. How could I not fall in love with her? I couldn’t not, that’s how.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Write about love and music.
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