Miriam Makeba, who died after collapsing onstage yesterday in Italy, would be legendary for her music alone. She was one of South Africa’s great singers, full stop, beginning in the ’50s, when she accompanied the smooth male vocal group Manhattan Brothers, before branching off into her own vocal group, the Skylarks, and then solo. In 1959, she starred in a stage version of King Kong with her future husband Hugh Masakela. But a year later, she was exiled from South Africa, disallowed from returning for her mother’s funeral, after she was featured in the anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa; Makeba would not return to South Africa until the early 1990s.
She thrived abroad, winning a Grammy in 1965 for a collaborative album with Harry Belafonte, appearing on The Cosby Show in 1991, and starring in 1992′s Sarafina! She also stirred further controversy by marrying Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panthers leader, in 1968 (he was her third husband of five), and again in 1987 when she appeared with Paul Simon in Zimbabwe on his Graceland tour. After Nelson Mandela was let out of prison and the South African government moved away from apartheid, Makeba returned home. In 2004, she was named one of the 100 greatest South Africans, on a TV special broadcast on SABC3. (Makeba was No. 38. The full list is here.) Makeba’s music still sounds fantastic, whether on its own, as on the above clip (as well as the ones embedded after the jump, all from a 1966 performance broadcast on Stockholm television), of “Pata Pata,” her best-known song, or finishing off DJ /rupture’s magnificent 2001 mixtape, Gold Teeth Thief with “Djiguinira.” Makeba was 76 years old.
South African Singer Miriam Makeba Dies [Billboard]