Stars Gather For Nelson Mandela Birthday Show
Queen, Leona Lewis and Amy Winehouse were among the performers due to serenade Nelson Mandela at a concert Friday honoring the South African statesman’s 90th birthday.
Winehouse, whose participation was in doubt when she was hospitalized last week after fainting, is reported to have rehearsed a rendition of the Specials’ 1984 anthem “Free Nelson Mandela” for the Hyde Park show, hosted by Will Smith.
The event marks Mandela’s birthday July 18 and comes 20 years after a 70th birthday concert at Wembley Stadium that helped press South Africa’s apartheid authorities for his freedom.
Proceeds from the show — which organizers hoped would be attended by 46,664 people — will go to 46664, the AIDS charity named for the number Mandela wore in prison.
Queen guitarist Brian May said the event was “as important and as joyful as anything we’ve done in our lives, and has a great serious significance as well.”
“It’s very much about spreading Nelson Mandela’s message to the next generation, and I’m very happy to be a part of it,” May said.
Annie Lennox, who performed at the 1988 show as part of Eurythmics, was scheduled to sing Friday. Also on the lineup: Josh Groban, the Soweto Gospel Choir, Simple Minds, Sugababes, Razorlight and African artists including Johnny Clegg and Papa Wemba.
Organizers said Bono and The Edge from the Irish band U2 had recorded a version of “Happy Birthday” that would be shown on big screens during the show.
Mandela, a frequent visitor to London, has been in the city since Monday for a week of birthday events. On Wednesday, he attended a dinner with guests including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former President Clinton, Robert De Niro and Oprah Winfrey.
Mandela was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years behind bars, and was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
He retired from politics in 1999 and has since campaigned to prevent the spread of AIDS.
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