sourced from the EZTV archives at 18th Street Arts Center & ONE archives at USC
additional materials sourced from the Patric Prince Archives at the V&A, London & Zina Bethune archives at UCLA
Video is all too often seen as narcissistic, trivial, or ineffectual. And admittedly, that may be sometimes true. But there have been those moments when a single video took center stage and actually made a difference in the lives of many. Such is the case of a video worth remembering.
As we remember the amazing life of Nelson Mandela, let’s also remember the impact that a diverse group of musicians – rap, punk, salsa, rock, country, and jazz were made in building momentum – in destroying South African apartheid.
Ronald Regan had just been elected and the U.S. was facing an extreme turn towards political conservatism.
Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist (and more recently actor), Steve van Zandt, put together a group ranging from Miles Davis to Run DMC, from Benetar to Bono, from Bonnie Raitt to Joey Ramone, from Ruben Blades to the Temps, and of course the Boss. Dylan, Ringo, Lou Reed, and so many others. Their simple message was loud, brash, angry, and clear – stating absolutely that despite the incredible pay given to foreign artists like themselves, that they “ain’t gonna play Sun City!”
These musicians all realized that they were taking a personal career risk by this declaration, both at home as well as elsewhere.
This act of economic as well as cultural defiance is absolutely credited as having a major impact resulting in the rapid loss of support for the racist regime. There are stories of the children of U.S. politicians watching the music video on MTV, demanding that their parents begin to use their political power to change U.S. support of apartheid. And there were, as well, many other international reactions.
For those you may have never known or were too young, here’s a music video that really did make a difference and changed the world.
The video was directed by Jonathan Demme, working with “Little Stevie”, as van Zandt was able to get all these musical legends together.
EZTV had no role in its creation but as part of the grassroots efforts which not only included the video’s heavy rotation on MTV, EZTV, as well as likely many other spaces, included it in its screenings, with EZTV playing it at the pre-show of every of its screenings for the next six months after its release.
With deepest respects for the contribution made by Mandela and all the pioneers of the civil rights movements, worldwide.