Miriam Mekeba Dies Nov 12, 2008 9:10:35 GMT -5
Post by Motorcity on Nov 12, 2008 9:10:35 GMT -5
(CNN) -- Legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba, an outspoken critic of apartheid, died late Sunday in southern Italy, a hospital spokesman has told CNN. She was 76.
The cause of death was not immediately known.
Makeba's career spanned parts of six decades and helped bring African music to a global audience. She was known as the "Empress of African Song" and "Mama Africa."
She was considered by many to be the most important female vocalist to come out of South Africa.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela, a prisoner under the nation's apartheid regime, mourned her death, but praised her commitment to the cause.
"Despite her tremendous sacrifice and the pain she felt to leave behind her beloved family and her country when she went into exile, she continued to make us proud as she used her worldwide fame to focus attention on the abomination of apartheid," Mandela said in a statement released Monday.
An outspoken critic of apartheid, she had her South African citizenship revoked by the country's government in 1960. For the next 30 years, Makeba considered herself a "citizen of the world" until her citizenship was restored.
She recorded her first single, "Lakutshona Llange," in 1953 as a member of the Manhattan Brothers.
Makeba's breakthrough hit in the United States came in 1967, when "Pata Pata" charted. It was recorded 11 years earlier in South Africa.
Makeba lived in exile for 31 years in the United States, France, Guinea in West Africa and Belgium, The Associated Press reported. She returned to South Africa in 1990, when many long-exiled South Africans returned under reforms instituted by then-President F.W. de Klerk.
"I never understood why I couldn't come home," Ms. Makeba said upon her return, according to an AP report. "I never committed any crime."
Makeba spoke before the United Nations in 1976, denouncing the policy of apartheid, or racial segregation, according to AP. After that, South Africa's government-run radio and television refused to broadcast her songs until 1989.
American entertainer Steve Allen helped launch her career in the United States and she often toured with singer Harry Belafonte during the 1960s. In 1987 she performed with singer Paul Simon on his "Graceland" concert tour.
South African singer Miriam Makeba dies
By Serena Chaudhry Serena Chaudhry – Mon Nov 10, 5:44 am ET
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African singer Miriam Makeba, one of Africa's best known voices and a champion of the fight against apartheid, has died of a heart attack after a performance in Italy. She was 76.
Known as "Mama Africa" and the "Empress of African Song," Makeba was the first black South African musician to gain international fame, winning renown in the United States in the 1950s with her sweeping vocals.
Makeba fell ill after a concert against organized crime in the southern Italian town of Baia Verde late on Sunday, her publicist said. She died after being rushed to a clinic in the town of Castel Volturno.
"It was from a heart attack, but she had not been well for some time," publicist Mark Lechat told Reuters. He said Makeba had also been suffering from arthritis.
South African radio stations paid tribute to Makeba, reading out text messages in praise of one of the best loved stars in the country and across the continent.
Makeba had spent 31 years in exile after openly speaking out against apartheid. One of her songs demanded the release of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail fighting white-minority rule.
Makeba made popular fashion statements that stressed her African pride through hairstyles and traditional garb.
Makeba came from humble beginnings in a shantytown near Johannesburg. The former domestic servant first started to sing in her school choir and learned new songs by listening to recordings of American jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald.
She mixed jazz with traditional African sounds and punctuated some songs with the clicks of her Xhosa language.
Makeba won attention on the international stage as lead singer for the South African band The Manhattan Brothers. In New York, she worked with Harry Belafonte.
Exiled after speaking out against apartheid, Makeba created classics such as "The Click Song" and "Pata Pata."
While she won over millions on the stage, Makeba's personal life was marred by tragedy. Makeba had said her first husband often beat her, and she left him after finding him in bed with her sister.
Makeba married American "black power" activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968 and they moved to the West African country of Guinea, but later split. She was divorced four times.
(Additional reporting by Antonella Cinelli in Rome; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)