Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba dies.

I remember meeting a young woman from South Africa at a Christmas party several years ago. We didn't have much to talk about, and being a creature of habit I turned to music. I said I'm not sure what the South African sentiment is anymore--these things have a tendency to come and go from fashionability, but I really love Miriam Makeba, especially the group she had in the 60's, The Skylarks. Before speaking I hadn't taken into account what a political visionary Makeba was, and certainly didn't know what an icon she remained in her native land. Needless to say, my new acquaintance came very much to life. This was the woman who, with Harry Belafonte, was among the first high profile celebrities to bring the catastrophic apartheid system into global consciousness. My first thought was it must be like hearing someone say, oh, you're from America. I love The Doors! Turns out she was more like Ella Fitzgerald with stirrings of MLK. She said by many South Africans' reckoning--hers included, Miriam Makeba was the apotheosis of their country.

It is deeply saddening news to hear of her passing Sunday, at the age of 76. That she died on stage, where she brought to life such a transformative force is as fitting salute as I could think to give her. I'll be spinning the Skylarks on into the night...

Rest in peace.

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