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Sun City by Artists United Against Apartheid

Album: Sun CityReleased: 1985Charted:
38
21
  • Sun City was a resort in South Africa that catered to wealthy white tourists. Many famous entertainers performed there despite the racist Apartheid policy. Artists United Against Apartheid was organized by "Little Steven" Van Zandt, who discovered Sun City when he traveled to Africa after leaving Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band in 1985.
  • Van Zandt considered naming artists who played the Sun City resort in the song, but decided not to. He asked them to participate in the project instead.
  • Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Run-D.M.C., Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Bono, Melle Mel, Keith Richards, Jackson Browne, and George Clinton are some of the 54 artists who contributed to the song. A mix of music styles, including rap, rock, and jazz were incorporated.
  • This was one of the first collaborations among major recording stars to support a political, rather than a social cause. The project raised over $1 million dollars for anti-Apartheid efforts.
  • Hip-Hop pioneer Kurtis Blow was one of the musicians who performed on this. He told us about the experience:
    "That was a blessing, just incredible. Stevie calls everybody together. He calls me up and says, 'Hey I want you to do this song about the plight in South Africa. We're not going to play Sun City and we want everybody to know about the injustices that are going on down there. We need to let everyone know that we're not happy and we're not going to play in South Africa until things are changed over there.' Stevie Van Zandt was united in this thing. We jumped at the chance to be a part of it. It was too strong a cause for us to turn down. Then you have this white cat who's doing it, this is really what America stands for. A lot of people opened their eyes when that song came out."
  • This was recorded at a series of sessions in 4 cities as artists would come by and contribute what they could, often improvising in their own styles. While most of the musicians didn't record together, many of them got together for the video, which was shot in different places around New York City.
  • The project was originally going to be one song, but some of the musicians contributed other pieces, making it into a full length album.
  • Most radio stations refused to play this because it did not fit a specific format and was politically sensitive.
  • The legacy of this song is that it helped expose Apartheid, a system of forced discrimination in South Africa. Apartheid ended there in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.
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Comments: 4

Very powerful song. Who says music can't change the world?!

Before you jump down my throat, yes, I realize (and I think Little Steven would agree) that many, many, many people helped end aparthied in South Africa, and most of them gave a LOT more than a few minutes of their time to record a song... in fact, thousands if not millions gave their lives. Even so, this song had a huge impact. Prior to this song, most people were vaguely aware of what was happening in South Africa, but very few really did or said anything about it. In fact, Sun City, in and of itself, was a fairly minor thing. It was just a white resort that would overpay famous entertainment acts to come and play for rich white South Africans so they could kid themselves that their system and their government was just fine. Well, thanks to Steven Van Zandt and this song, that ended. Oh Sun City continued to exist as did South African apartheid, but never again could rich entertainers go and play Sun City for obscene payoffs and play dumb about where the money came from. In one more small way, the rest of the world, told South Africa that they did not approve and this must end. Soon, thanks in no small part to this song, the pressure began to grow. Many universities (often after student protests) and other organizations forbid their pension plans from investing in companies who did work in or for South Africa. As a result, many large multinational companies pulled out of South Africa and the nation rapidly found itself more and more isolated. By 1994, less than 10 years after this song was released, a truly democratic government was elected.
Ken - Philadelphia, Pa
well i just wanna say that the apartheid in S.A still ! I WAS IN SUN CITY PRISON AND IN THERE LIFE IS HARD FOR WHITE PEOPLE..Jenny - Lima, Peru
actually, apartheid in SA ended in '94 when the first democratic government was established. ironically, Sun City is now slang for Johannesburg Central Prison!Theo - Johannesburg, South Africa
A brilliant, powerful call to arms. Little Steven rallied some of the greatest voices in popular music to help him deliver this stinging broadside.Don - Newmarket, Canada