Bono, Aretha Franklin, R. Kelly and More Honor Nelson Mandela
U2 frontman writes 1,000-word essay, Queen of Soul calls South African leader "closer to phenomenal than great," and R&B shapeshifter performs a musical tribute on 'Arsenio Hall'
Tributes continue to pour in for Nelson Mandela, the South African leader who died on December 5 at age 95. U2’s Bono wrote a 1,051-word essay for Time praising the historic freedom fighter as “the man who could not cry.” Aretha Franklin honored Madiba, to use his clan name, in an interview on SiriusXM’s Joe Madison Show, which you can hear via SoundCloud. And R. Kelly performed a previously unreleased Mandela tribute song on Arsenio.
The salutes come after President Obama’s stirring memorial address, a heartfelt tribute to Mandela from his countryfolk Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and reverent comments from musicians across Twitter. Meanwhile, back in South Africa, President Jacob Zuma has scheduled a memorial for December 10 in a Johannesburg stadium, according to the AP. Beginning the next day, Mandela’s body will lie in state until the burial, set for December 15.
Bono’s piece explains in great detail why the U2 frontman and social activist has tried to follow Mandela’s example for more than three decades. Bono says Mandela became a “forceful presence” for him in 1979, when U2 stood up against the apartheid system that racially segregated South Africa. The Irish rock singer also noted he’d heard from one of Mandela’s cell mates that the leader’s hard labor while imprisoned had left the great leader unable to cry — at least until a 1994 medical procedure. “Now, he could cry,” Bono writes. “Today, we can.” (Bono also honors Mandela on U2’s new song “Ordinary Love,” for the forthcoming biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.)
Franklin, in her interview, compared Mandela to the likes of Martin Luther King and Gandhi. The “Respect” legend explained that “to say that he was a great man is kind of an understatement — there are a lot of great men — but he was uncommonly great.” She added, “He was closer to phenomenal than great.” Once again, you can listen to her full eight-minute chat here.
On Arsenio last night, host Arsenio Hall said that years ago Kelly wrote a song titled “Soldier’s Heart” for Mandela and performed it at the leader’s home. Kelly took a break from the bawdy R&B of his upcoming album Black Panties to deliver a short, earnest ballad, backing himself only on piano. “All hope was gone / Hard to be strong,” the song begins, later adding, “But still he believed.” Kelly concluded by remarking, “Rest in peace, Mandela.” Watch that below.
More on Nelson Mandela:
Nelson Mandela R.I.P. (1918-2013)
‘Free Nelson Mandela’: The Story of a Song that Helped Change the World
Nelson Mandela’s Subversive Musical Legacy
Barack Obama: ‘Nelson Mandela Bent the Arc of the Moral Universe’
Ladysmith Black Mambazo Reflect on Nelson Mandela’s Death
Nelson Mandela’s Death: Twitter Reacts