Artists United Against Apartheid - Sun City




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Published on Jan 25, 2009

Not long after Band Aid and We Are The World focused musical attention on poverty and famine, a collection of artists took a similar approach in the struggle against apartheid. The initiator was Steven van Zandt - erstwhile guitarist in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band - who whipped up dozens of musicians to work on the project. They included Peter Gabriel, members of U2, Springsteen himself, Hall and Oates, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Run DMC, Lou Reed, Jackson Browne and Keith Richards. Van Zandt wrote and produced the song and it reached the top 40 in several European nations, though not in the US.

Sun City is a large casino resort in the north-west of South Africa. During the apartheid years it was located in 'independent' state of Bophuthatswana, a phoney political entity that enabled white South Africans to visit a casino, gamble and attend strip shows, even though these activities were illegal within South Africa itself. The United Nations placed a cultural ban on artists touring or performing in South Africa - however many notable American and European acts ignored this and received large sums to perform at Sun City's massive auditorium. Amongst those to defy the ban included Linda Ronstadt, Queen, Laura Branigan, Rod Stewart, Julio Iglesias - and, ironically, black singers like Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick and Boney M. As a result, Van Zandt's song continually insists that "I ain't gonna play Sun City":

Twenty-three million can't vote 'cause they're black
We're stabbing our brothers and sisters in the back
I wanna say I, I, I ain't gonna play Sun City
I, I, I ain't gonna play Sun City

Boputhuswana is so far away
But we know it's in South Africa
No matter what they say
You can't buy me, I don't care what you pay
Don't ask me Sun City because I ain't gonna play

The Music in History channel is operated by Alpha History. Visit our website at http://alphahistory.com for great history teaching and learning resource.


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