“Biko” is a good old-fashioned protest song by Peter Gabriel. The song is from Gabriel’s third album and is about Steve Biko, a noted black South African anti-apartheid activist. Steven Biko had been arrested by the South African police in 1977. After being held in custody for several days, he was interrogated in room 619 of the Walmer Street prison in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. Following the interrogation, during which the police beat him and left him with serious head injuries, Biko was transferred without medical care to a prison in Pretoria, where he died shortly afterwards, on 12th September 1977.
The song was first released as a single in 1980, when it reached #38 on the British charts. A live version, recorded in July 1987 at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, was released later that year, reaching #49 in the UK. A live recording of the song was used to promote the Richard Attenborough Biko biopic Cry Freedom, and its music video, consisting of clips from the film and Gabriel singing, was heavily played on MTV during the film’s theatrical run.
Peter Gabriel performed the song at Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at Wembley in 1988 and he often plays the song at the end of concerts, encouraging the audience to sing along, after which most of the band leaves the stage.
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