Singer, Actress, Activist. Best remembered as a musical performer who energized an African consciousness, giving hope to millions of her countrymen during the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. In the 1950s she was a popular singer and starred in a documentary about apartheid, "Come Back, Africa" (1959), that was smuggled out of South Africa and won a prize at the Venice Film Festival. While visiting London she learned she was barred from South Africa. Harry Belafonte then brought her to the United States, where her song "Pata Pata" reached the US top ten and marked a huge triumph for establishing African musical creativity in American pop culture. Makeba also remained politically active and testified against apartheid at the United Nations in 1963. Affectionately known as "Mama Africa" and the "Empress of African Song," she was the first African woman to receive a Grammy award, for Best Folk Recording for "An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba" (1966). In 1968 she married Black Panther Stokely Carmichael and moved to Guinea. In 1990 she returned to South Africa at the personal request of Nelson Mandela. She began a a "farewell tour" of the world in 2005 that lasted three years. Made some 26 recordings, the last one in 2006 was "Makeba Forever," and numerous film and television appearances from the Ed Sullivan Show in 1962 to her last television appearance on "La Imagen de tu vida" in Spain. Cause of death: heart attack following a solidarity performance in Castel Volturno, Italy for a journalist covering the story of six immigrants from Ghana killed by the Mafia.
Bio by: Fred Beisser