Free Nelson Mandela

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"Nelson Mandela"
Single by The Special A.K.A.
from the album In the Studio
B-sideBreak Down The Door!
Released5 March 1984
Format7", 12"
GenreSka
Length4:12
Label2 Tone CHS TT26
Writer(s)Jerry Dammers
ProducerElvis Costello
The Special A.K.A. singles chronology
"Racist Friend"
(1983)
"Free Nelson Mandela"
(1984)
"What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend"
(1984)
 
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"Nelson Mandela"
Single by The Special A.K.A.
from the album In the Studio
B-sideBreak Down The Door!
Released5 March 1984
Format7", 12"
GenreSka
Length4:12
Label2 Tone CHS TT26
Writer(s)Jerry Dammers
ProducerElvis Costello
The Special A.K.A. singles chronology
"Racist Friend"
(1983)
"Free Nelson Mandela"
(1984)
"What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend"
(1984)

"Nelson Mandela" (known in some versions as "Free Nelson Mandela") is a song written by Jerry Dammers and performed by his Coventry-based band The Special A.K.A. - with lead vocal by Stan Campbell - released on the single Nelson Mandela / Break Down The Door in 1984 as a protest against the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela by the apartheid South African government. Unlike most protest songs, the track is upbeat and celebratory, drawing on musical influences from South Africa. The song reached No.9 in the UK charts and was immensely popular in Africa.

History[edit]

Dammers told the Radio Times about the song: "I knew very little about Mandela until I went to an anti-apartheid concert in London in 1983, which gave me the idea for "Nelson Mandela", I never knew how much impact the song would have; it was a hit around the world, and it got back into South Africa and was played at sporting events and ANC rallies-it became an anthem." [1]

Stan Campbell left the band right after the recording of the song and the release of the video for the song, and had to be persuaded to rejoin briefly for a live appearance on the BBC TV show Top of the Pops in 1984. Following that one TV appearance, Campbell left for good.

In 1984 the students' union at Wadham College, Oxford passed a motion to end every college "bop" (dance) with the song. The tradition continues despite his release.

A Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute remake released in 1988 featured Elvis Costello, Dave Wakeling, Ranking Roger and Lynval Golding on backing vocals.[citation needed]

At the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Tribute in London's Hyde Park in June 2008, the song was performed as the show's finale, with Amy Winehouse on lead vocals. However, careful listening to the soundtrack revealed that, instead of "Free Nelson Mandela", she at times sang "Free Blakey, My Fella" (a reference to her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, a former drug dealer imprisoned for assault).[2][3] The song was featured on Peter Kay's spoof television programme Britain's Got the Pop Factor. In 2010, the New Statesman listed it as one of the “Top 20 Political Songs”.[4]

Track listing[edit]

1984 recording[edit]

  1. "Nelson Mandela" – 4:12
  2. "Break Down The Door!" – 3:48
  1. "Nelson Mandela (Extended Version)" – 4:34
  2. "Break Down The Door! (Extended Version)" – 5:01
  1. "Free Nelson Mandela (Club Mix)" - 6:28
  2. "Free Nelson Mandela (Instrumental Mix)" - 4:30
  3. "Free Nelson Mandela (LP Version)" - 4:07

1988 recording[edit]

  1. "Free Nelson Mandela (The Whole World is Watching Dance Mix)" – produced by Jerry Dammers and Tom Fredrickse
  2. "Nelson Mandela (Original Version)"

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1984)Peak
position
U.K. Singles Chart [8]9
IRE Singles Chart [9]6
Chart (1988)Peak
position
U.K. Singles Chart [10]93

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nelson Mandela Songfacts
  2. ^ Mark Savage (2008-07-21). "Amy and Blake: Love and turmoil". http://news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  3. ^ Staff Journalist (2008-10-23). "Heard the one about Gordon Brown telling a joke? Prime Minister sparks laughter with Amy Winehouse story". http://dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Jennifer (25 March 2010). "Top 20 Political Songs: Free Nelson Mandela". New Statesman. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  5. ^ http://2-tone.info/2tone.pl?show121& 2Tone Discography Nelson Mandela release details
  6. ^ http://2-tone.info/2tone.pl?display292 2Tone Discography Nelson Mandela release details 12"
  7. ^ http://2-tone.info/2tone.pl?display226 2Tone Discography Nelson Mandela 1988 release details
  8. ^ http://www.chartstats.com/songinfo.php?id=11455 chartstats.com Nelson Mandela chart log
  9. ^ http://www.irishcharts.ie/ Irish singles chart placings
  10. ^ http://www.chartstats.com/songinfo.php?id=15529 Nelson Mandela chart log 1988