“Free Nelson Mandela, 21 years in captivity, Shoes too small to fit his feet, His body abused but his mind is still free, Are you so blind that you cannot see? I said: Free Nelson Mandela, I’m begging you, Free Nelson Mandelal”
The anti-apartheid message was serious and heartfelt but the song that alerted many around the world to the injustices of the South African regime could not have been more upbeat.
“Free Nelson Mandela” was a Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom for The Special AKA in 1984, and it instantly became the unofficial anthem and slogan for the international anti-apartheid movement.
The song’s eponymous subject rose to prominence in the 1950s as a radical young member of the African National Congress, the main opposition movement to the segregationist South African government.
As an advocate of guerrilla attacks, Mandela, was frequently arrested and eventually convicted in 1964, along with other ANC leaders, for sabotage. He received a life prison sentence, and spent 27 years in a cell, mostly on Robben Island, off the South African coast.
While Mandela languished in jail, an anti-apartheid movement slowly developed in the West, starting with sporting sanctions against South Africa and later an artists’ boycott of performances in the country.
The composer of “Free Nelson Mandela,” Jerry Dammers – the founder of the multiracial English aka-punk band, The Specials, later renamed The Special AKA – admits he knew little about Mandela before he attended an anti-apartheid concert in London in 1983, which gave him the idea for the song.
“I’d never actually heard of Nelson Mandela although I knew a lot about the anti-apartheid movement and he was becoming a figurehead for the whole movement,” Dammers told CNN.
The keyboardist, who also wrote “Ghost Town,” the seminal Specials song against the policies of Great Britain’s prime minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher, may not have known much about the imprisoned anti-apartheid figurehead, but his lyrics brought Mandela’s struggle to the attention of a wider audience.
Mr Lett “HERO” is a song dedicated to notable African leader ‘Nelson Mandala’ and our struggle and quest for freedom and achievement.
Download and listen to “HERO” below.