Happy birthday to "Mama Africa" Miriam Makeba, civil rights and anti-apartheid activist, singer, actress, UN delegate, Black Panther and warrior. From her birth in jail (where she spent the first six months of her life with her incarcerated mother) to her death immediately following a concert to raise awareness of mafia control, Miriam was a freedom fighter and compassionate voice throughout.
One of the first stars of the African continent to be recognized internationally (after her big 1957 hit "Pata Pata"), she survived breast cancer in the '50s and founded an all-woman group The Skylarks (a rarity for the time). She toured the world with Harry Belafante. A Xhosa woman, she was a major voice speaking out against apartheid, for which her native South Africa banned her, and she never went home until 1990.
She was married five times, including to Hugh Masekela and Stokely Carmichael. She made a lot of records from tribal folk to afro-pop to covers of American rock songs to jazz-funk, including collaborations with Paul Simon, Nina Simone and members of The Crusaders. Despite being in exile for much of her life she was a citizen of ten different countries, a result of her worldly stature. Let's listen to a few of her tunes.
Here she is performing her hit tune on The Ed Sullivan Show, 1967:
From her 1965 album with Harry Belafonte:
One of my personal favorites, "Samba", from A Promise, her 1974 album with members of The Crusaders:
Here's a fun one from 1970: