I first saw Miriam Makeba when I was still in my teens. She was a featured performer in a festival called JAZZ RUNS AT LAUREL, held on the grounds of the Laurel Race Track in the Maryland suburbs outside D.C. The festival was wide-ranging -- It was also the first time I saw bag-pipes-playing Rufus Harley -- The first time Roberta Flack was in front of a huge audience after her many nights playing at Mr. Henry's. Jimmy Smith was there -- The Farmer/Lewis big band -- and Miriam Makeba, fresh off her hit record PATA PATA. Years earlier she'd had a hit with the CLICK SONG, which she also performed at Laurel. Makeba had recently married Stokeley Carmichael, who came out and took a bow -- He still had lots of friends in the area from his Howard University days, and so was warmly received.
Makeba's performance was stunning -- and she interacted with her audience as if we were all just good friends trading riffs. I still remember how she introduced her band. As she named each of her backup singers, she would identify where in Africa each came from. Then she named one more singer and told us "She is from Africa by way of West Virginia."
Miriam Makeba was a life-long ambassador to the world, an activist artist of strong principles and even stronger talents.