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
Producer(s)Elvis 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
Producer(s)Elvis 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 British musician Jerry Dammers and performed by 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. The backing vocals were performed by Molly and Polly Jackson, two girls the band's drummer John Bradbury had "met in a bar in Camden", while the chorus was performed by session singers including Claudia Fontaine and Caron Wheeler, who later went on to appear with Soul II Soul.[1] Unlike most protest songs, the track is upbeat and celebratory, drawing on musical influences from South Africa. The song peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart and was immensely popular in Africa.

In December 2013, following the news of Nelson Mandela's death, the single re-entered at number ninety six on the UK Singles Chart.

Reception[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."[2]

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 two live appearances on the BBC TV show Top of the Pops in 1984.[citation needed] Following those appearances, 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 to this day.

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).[3][4] 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".[5]

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band opened with the song on January 26, 2014, at the Bellville Velodrome in Cape Town, South Africa,[6] in the band's first ever concert in South Africa, which took place just 6 six weeks after Mandela's death. Springsteen later dedicated "We Are Alive" to Mandela.

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)"

Charts[edit]

Chart (1984)Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[10]8
Irish Singles (IRMA)[11]6
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[12]9
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[13]1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[14]9
Chart (1988)Peak
position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[15]93
Chart (2013)Peak
position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)96

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/dec/09/jerry-dammers-free-nelson-mandela Retrieved 9th December 2013
  2. ^ Nelson Mandela Songfacts
  3. ^ Mark Savage (2008-07-21). "Amy and Blake: Love and turmoil". http://news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Thompson, Jennifer (25 March 2010). "Top 20 Political Songs: Free Nelson Mandela". New Statesman. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  6. ^ "01 26 14 Cape Town, South Africa". Bruce Springsteen Official Web Site. 27 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  7. ^ http://2-tone.info/2tone.pl?show121& 2Tone Discography Nelson Mandela release details
  8. ^ http://2-tone.info/2tone.pl?display292 2Tone Discography Nelson Mandela release details 12"
  9. ^ http://2-tone.info/2tone.pl?display226 2Tone Discography Nelson Mandela 1988 release details
  10. ^ "Ultratop.be – The Special AKA – Nelson Mandela" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  11. ^ http://www.irishcharts.ie/ Irish singles chart placings
  12. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – The Special AKA – Nelson Mandela" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
  13. ^ "Charts.org.nz – The Special AKA – Nelson Mandela". Top 40 Singles.
  14. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart.
  15. ^ http://www.chartstats.com/songinfo.php?id=15529 Nelson Mandela chart log 1988