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‘Remembering Days of Miracle and Wonder’ by Paul Simon – The New York Times

The following is an excerpt from “Remembering Days of Miracle and Wonder,” from The New York Times, written by Paul Simon about Nelson Mandela and “Graceland.”

Bring back Nelson Mandela,
Bring him back home to Soweto.
We want to see him walking down the streets
Of South Africa, tomorrow.

After the bomb-sniffing dogs checked out the arena, after the band walked past the protesters with their placards, after the sound check and the opening numbers of the 1987 “Graceland” tour through Europe and the United States, when the audience was on its feet, dancing and singing — somewhere about midway through one of those first astonishing shows — Hugh Masekela approached the microphone and sang the opening lines of his song “Bring Him Back Home.” For a moment, there was silence in the hall, as everyone understood the pain and suffering of South Africa and the longing for the return of the man imprisoned on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela.

Then, when Hugh finished the opening verse, he put his trumpet to his lips and played a solo of irresistible rhythmic intensity, and the crowd burst into cheers and started to dance again to the joyous music from the sad land of South Africa.

This week, as we mourn Mr. Mandela and celebrate his life, I am thinking once again of my life-altering experiences with “Graceland.” There was the almost mystical affection and strange familiarity I felt when I first heard South African music. Later, there was the visceral thrill of collaborating with South African musicians onstage. Add to this potent mix the new friendships I made with my band mates, and the experience becomes one of the most vital in my life.

Read the complete article at The New York Times.