Highlights From Nelson Mandela’s 1990 Appearance at London Wembley’s Charity Concert

Mandela took the stage just two months after his release

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On April 16, 1990— just two months after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, where he’d spent the past 27 years — he made an appearance at the International Tribute for a Free South Africa charity concert at London’s Wembley Stadium. Musical guests at the event included Lou Reed, Anita Baker, Chrissie Hynde, Tracy Chapman, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Cole, Neil Young and Peter Gabriel, but the person who brought down the house was Madiba himself.

Appearing onstage and speaking in front of a crowd of 72,000 — not including the millions around the world who watched the televised broadcast — Mandela addressed his supporters saying, “Thank you that you chose to care,” and urging them to continue the fight against apartheid.

The event was a follow-up to 1988’s Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert — also at Wembley Stadium — where performers and celebrities had called for the release of Mandela from prison. That event was widely praised for putting international pressure on the South African government; buoyed by the release of Mandela, organizers aimed to put further pressure the South African regime with a second concert. During the five-and-a-half-hour concert, myriad acts took to the stage to honor and support Mandela, and to champion the end of apartheid. Just four years later, not only would apartheid be dismantled but Mandela would become the first black president of South Africa.

 

Denzel Washington and Lenny Henry opened the event:

 

Bonnie Raitt:

 

Tracy Chapman:

 

Lou Reed:

 

Neil Young:

 

Peter Gabriel and Geoffrey Oryema:

 

Anita Baker, who also played at the the 1990 concert, tweeted her sorrow over Mandela’s death on Dec. 6: