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The funeral of the great statesman/civil rights leader/freedom symbol, Nelson Mandela is scheduled to take place today. Former USA Presidents including Obama, Clinton and Bush are expected to attend as well as the Pope and Dahlia Lama.

Mandela has of course inspired his share of fine songs and art works. One that comes to mind is the classic, “Nelson Mandela,” by the specials AKA, a group that spun off of the two tone combo, the specials (They also did “Ghost Town.”) The official video can be found at
Some other homages to Mandela were produced by Peter Gabriel (“Biko”), Johnny Clegg and Savuka (“Asimbonanga”) and Youssou N’Dour (“Mandela”) and of course, Stevie Wonder (“It’s Wrong”). This would make a nifty compilation if only someone got the rights to all the songs. Simple Minds who are mostly known in the USA for their contribution to the “Breakfast Club” movie soundtrack contributed “Mandela Day,” which sounds a bit bland to these ears. See
Dave Stewart, Joe Strummer, and Bono teamed up for the reggae influenced song, “Number 46664,” which was named after Mandela’s prison number. The video creatively incorporates clips of Mandela’s speeches.
The Cantonese group, beyond released “Glorious Years,” an interesting song celebrating Mandela’s release from prison. It can be found at

A whole list of Mandela songs appeared in the Nation (see, but inexplicably there were no rap selections.

A video made for the Sun City project featured lines by Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, and even Grandmaster Flash and the video showed some shocking images of mistreatment and Mandela himself.

Many people don’t know that Mandela also inspired his share of poems. Before she did her inaugural poem for President Obama (which I wasn’t crazy about), Elizabeth Alexander penned he more masterful “A Poem for Nelson Mandela.” It’s so descriptive that I can practically taste the tomatoes. It can be found here.
A rhyming poem extoling the virtues of Mandela by Jaco Diederiks can be found at .

A poem about Mandela by South Africa's John Matshikiza titled “And I Watch it in Mandela,” appeared in the ‘70s. Jekwu Ikeme's "When Mandela Goes," published in 2004, contained the eloquent line, “your gallant walk shall be our cross and shepherd.”

Finally, one of the most moving poetic tributes to Mandela appeared just a few days ago. Maya Angelou penned, “His Day is Done,” a homage to the great Civil Rights leader, and she recited it in a video message that was posted to YouTube by the U.S. State Department. To hear it go to

**Supposedly Mandela himself had a favorite poem. While he was in prison he memorized “Invictus” by the poet/critic William Ernest Henley, and he often recited it to his fellow inmates. It’s easy to see why the poem struck a chord in Mandela because the narrator thanks the gods for his “unconquerable soul.” The stirring work ends with the line” I am the captain of my fate/I am the master of my soul.”

The poem helped inspire a very good (though not great) film that was directed by Clint Eastwood. The film takes a few liberties with the real story because the film shows Mandela giving a soccer team captain a copy of the poem (in real life it was a different text.)
Go to to hear Morgan Freeman’s rendition of the work.

** Finally in the Rumpus website, a writer named David Bonspiel spaced some of Mandela’s prose as if it were poetry. See it at


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