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Posted: 2012 01-20
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The Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute was a popular-music concert staged on June 11, 1988 at Wembley Stadium, London and broadcast to 67 countries and an audience of 600 million. It was also referred to as Freedomfest, Free Nelson Mandela Concert and Mandela Day. In the US, the Fox television network heavily censored the political aspects of the concert.
With clearly enough talent on board, Hollingsworth announced the bill in March, three months before the June 11 event. The list included Dire Straits, Simple Minds, George Michael, Whitney Houston, Aswad, Sly and Robbie, Bee Gees, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. The announcement of the list made it easier to bring in further artists, including the Eurythmics who had earlier refused three times, but other big names also.
A week after the first bill was announced, Simple Minds threatened to quit, arguing that there was not enough grit in it: Whitney Houston and George Michael, for instance, should not be there. Hollingsworth argued that there was plenty of grit but that Whitney Houston and George Michael were needed to broaden the audience to include people who were not so likely to know about Mandela and apartheid. Simple Minds accepted the argument.
Whitney Houston, who was contracted to make advertisements for Coca-Cola, did her act in front of a black backdrop instead of the usual picture of Nelson Mandela. But, according to Hollingsworth, this was nothing to do with censorship but the result of an electricity generator failing.
Stevie Wonder returned to the stadium, but turned down the request to use the same equipment as the present act on the main stage, Whitney Houston. Other members of the band said they would use other people's equipment. Finally, with time running out, Wonder agreed.

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