Sunday, 9 October 2011

Miriam Makeba – Tracks Less Travelled (1958 – 98)

For the last six years I have been working on a project documenting the work of Miriam Makeba. After reading the liner notes of her highly political 1965 LP An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba, it dawned on me that these mass-produced commodities, issued all over the world, were a perfect and significant vehicle for spreading an anti-apartheid message. I set a goal to accumulate as many examples as I could of those messages and in the process discovered some amazing music.

Over her prolific career, from 1954 up to her death in 2008, Makeba issued no less than 29 individual albums along with countless 78s, 45s and EPs, pressed in at least 33 countries. In addition, over 28 compilations of her works have been and continue to be issued on compact disc.

For my post today I constructed a small experiment using iTunes as a database. First I dumped every “best of” Makeba CD in my collection into the application. Secondly I loaded at least one copy of each of her albums; as well as digitizing those not available on CD. I then picked through the singles and EPs and digitized tracks not found on albums. The provisional result was 832 songs or two days of listening to comb through. My goal here was see what songs were more popular—widely issued on multiple pressings—and which were less common. I was also curious to see how many variations of individual songs there were. From that list I then selected tracks or versions of tracks (with one or two exceptions) that seemed to come up only once. For the most part these were tracks that either had never been reissued on CD or if they were, are seldom, if at all, included on her “best of” compilations. I was surprised to see the number of significant hits and gems remaining un-reissued. Of the 29 albums made by Makeba, there are at least six that have never been re-issued on CD. (Some of these can be viewed here.) Of those that have been reissued (and this is my biggest gripe) almost none include the original cover art or liner notes, but rather come across as budget-bin reissues. Where are all those fancy digipaks?

Here are some notable side facts from the project: The song with the most versions is Qoqotwane (aka The Click Song) with at least nine variations. Amampondo comes second with seven variations. The songs that appears to be most commonly included on albums are Miriam and Spokes’ Phatha Phatha with the Skylarks (here there were at least nine repetitions); Hush and a live version of Jolinkomo with eight repetitions; Kutheni Sithandwa, Live Humble and Orlando with seven repetions; and Kikirikiki (Chicken), Samba, Pata Pata, the live version of West Wind all with six repetitions. Of course this examination is by no means scientific, but I thought it still interesting.

OK, here is the final list of 25 of my favorite least common selections by Miriam Makeba:

1) Rockin’ in Rhythm (1958)
Something New from Africa LP
(Decca, LK 4229, UK)
Avid collectors of South African music will be familiar with this track, featuring a wordless interpretation by Makeba of the Ellington tune with Lemmy Special Mabaso on flute and Jimmy Pratt on piano. I have only ever seen this record as a UK pressing, but the ABC matrix leads me to wonder if there might be an equivalent South African pressing. No doubt, all the tracks on this LP were probably issued as 78 rpms by Gallo Records. For what it is worth, this track is probably the first “vinyl” recording to feature Makeba.

2) Hamba Bekile (c1958)
New Sounds of Africa Vol. 2, EP (c1963)
(Gallo, New Sound, ESL 7141, SA)
When I first saw this EP, I assumed it was a promotional complement to Gallo’s two fantastic compilation LPs New Sounds of Africa volumes 1 (NSL 1001) and 2 (NSL 1002), first issued on the New Sound label in 1960. (The former LP also being issued on the Fiesta label in the USA.) Though two of the tracks from the EP are on the second LP, the remaining two are not, including this track, Hamba Bekile, featuring Makeba with the Skylarks and Spokes Mashiyane on flute. Oddly the track is also not included on Rob Allingham and Albert Ralulimi’s two fantastic CD compilations of Skylark’s material: Miriam Makeba and the Skylarks (1956 – 1959) Vol. 1 (CDGSP 3130) and 2 (CDGSP 3131). (Be sure to get the 2008 CD reissues, each boasting five additional tracks and superior sound quality.) The cover of the EP shows an image of Makeba taken from her 1960 debut album on RCA Records in the US, but the matrix number on the EP (ABC 23850) reveals that it was probably issued around 1963. Again this track would have originally been issued as a 78 rpm in South Africa.

3) Umqokozo (live, c1964)
4) Love Tastes like Strawberries (live, c1964)
Midnight Hoot, LP (1964)
(Kapp, KL 1357, USA; London, HA-R 8178, UK)
Both these tracks appear to be live recordings from a folk concert that included Alan Lomax, amongst others, and was issued as the Midnight Hoot on Kapp records. The studio versions of the two songs also appear on Makeba’s second LP The Many Voices of Miriam Makeba released by Kapp Records in 1962. I have tried to find a recording date for this concert but cannot—I suspect somewhere around late 1963 or early 1964. It is possible that Kapp re-constructed the LP as a live recording… the deliveries here sound almost too tight to be live!
It is not clear to me why Makeba, after recording her first LP with RCA in 1960 then recorded her second LP with Kapp Records and then returned to RCA for her next five LPs. My only guess is it had something to do with that fact that Gallo demanded that RCA pay a whopping $75 000 to buy Makeba out of her ‘royalty–free’ [my sarcasm] contract with Gallo in 1960. Lawyers finally agreed on a $45 000 buy-out where Gallo also retained the rights to publish that first US recording made by RCA. Subsequently all international pressings of her first album state “Recorded for Gallo” except for the US pressings. Both her first and second LPs were issued in South Africa on Gallo’s London (ZA 6037) and Continental (ZA 6135) labels respectively. Because of the deal, Makeba never saw any royalties from her first album—all proceeds going to pay back RCA for the buy-out from Gallo.

5) Into Yam (June 21, 1963)
6) Little Boy (July 1, 1963)
Forbidden Games, French EP
(RCA Victor, 86 406 M, FRA)
Into Yam is one of the songs that Makeba sings in Lionel Rogosin’s clandestine, 1959 film Come Back Africa about township life in South Africa. The film premiered at the 1959 Venice Film Festival and it was Rogosin who bribed South African officials to let Makeba come to Italy for the presentation. She would not return to South Africa for the next 30 years. Rogosin along with Harry Belafonte financed Makeba’s travels to the US and arranged for her to appear on the Steve Allen show in November 1959. The first song she sang on live television in the United States was Into Yam.
The version of Into Yam on this compilation as well as Little Boy, both featuring arrangements by Hugh Masekela, can be heard on her third LP The World of Miriam Makeba issued by RCA in 1963. Remarkably, neither track has been featured on any of Makeba’s many “best of” compilation CDs. Makeba does sing an updated version of the song on her 2006 album Forever and there, unlike the earlier versions, the composition credits go to Dorothy Masuka. The Many Voices of Miriam Makeba LP has been reissued on CD, but as a budget, two-for-the-price-of-one CD (along with her debut album) and without the original cover art.

7) Qhude (October 30, 1963)
8) Come To Glory (1963)
Chants d'Afrique No. 2, French LP (April 1964)
(RCA Victor, 435 018, FRA)
I am absolutely floored that Qhude has not been featured on more Makeba “best of” compilations. Moreover it is unbelievable that her fourth album, The Voice of Africa, while being reissued on vinyl a number of times, has never been available on CD. The only CD compilation to feature Qhude is a well-researched 1991 US issue titled Africa (now out of print.) This CD is also one of the few to include a number of other fabulous tracks from five of her first six albums including the amazing Dubula and Kwedini. Come to Glory also on The Voice of Africa is a West Indian gospel chant and is one of my favorites.

9) Khawuyani-Khanyange (August 18, 1964)
10) Khuluma (August 18, 1964)
Miriam Makeba, French EP
(RCA Victor, 86 447 M, FRA)
Makeba’s fifth album Miriam Sings! has seldom, if at all, been reissued on vinyl and never on CD, though it boasts some great tracks including her alternative version of Kilimanjaro. Khawuyani-Khanyange, arranged by Masekela, is a combination of two songs by Makeba and Dorothy Masuka respectively and features Betty Mtombeni, Mamsie Gwangwa, Edith Grootboom, Ernst Mohlomi, Caiphus Semenya and Paul Makgoba on vocals.
Khuluma as the liner notes reveal is “another Mbaqanga from the townships, written by Betty Khoza, a singer from Durban living in Johannesburg” and also features Morris Goldberg on alto sax. (Check out more Betty Khoza and Morris Goldberg here.) In desperation to find clean copies of these two tracks, I broke down and opened a sealed copy I had found on eBay. All was not as it appeared and it turned out to be used… lesson here… be skeptical!

11) Oxgam (original studio version) (1966)
Canta en Espanol, Spanish 45
(RCA Victor, 3-10308, SPA)
Another shocking omission from many Makeba compilations is the original studio version of Oxgam (sometimes referred to as Click Song No.2); the preferred variation being the haunting, almost a cappella Baxabene Oxamu on the 1988 Sangoma album (one of her all time best LPs.) This Letta Mbulu track was first issued on Makeba’s 1966 LP, The Magic of Makeba and live versions are featured on In Concert! and the recently issued Live At Bern’s Salonger. The original album has also been reissued as part of a box set of seven of her LPs. Oxgam is a type of tongue twister meant to teach children how to pronounce clicks. Check out the funky organ stabs towards the end of the song!

12) Khawuleza (Russian booklet version)
(originally recorded April 1965; Russian version, 1970)
Kpyro3op (Krugozor Magazine with six flexi-discs)
(Issue 6, 1970, USSR)
Khawuleza (or Hurry, Mama, Hurry!) comes from the album An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba, issued on RCA Victor in 1965 and is widely available on CD. The album itself is significant in that Makeba won a Grammy for it and it is one of her most politically overt. This is an important album for me personally in that it is the very one that generated the entire Makeba research project when I found a copy in a thrift store in the United States and was struck by the very political nature of the liner notes. The album includes Vuyisile Mini’s classic protest song Ndodemnyama or Beware Verwoerd. Khawuleza speaks of police raids in the townships and written and originally recorded by Dorothy Masuka in the 1950s. Like many of Makeba’s post-1963 UN address records, the album was banned in South Africa. Three tracks from that album can be found on a very unique Russian audio booklet and this is where the version of Khawuleza comes from. Although all three songs are identical to the LP versions, they are unique in a remarkable way: It appears that the editors of the magazine have overlayed voice commentary or perhaps a translation in Russian over Makeba’s introduction to the song! The booklet itself consists of a number of other tracks by other artists and each song is ring bound as a floppy flexi-disc in the book with extensive text in Russian. To play a song, one must simply go to the page of choice, fold the book completely open and place the entire object on the record player.

The Soviet Union was sympathetic to anti-apartheid causes and supported the ANC in exile with training and shelter. A number of historic ANC albums were recorded and issued in the USSR including the Amandla group with Jonas Gwangwa. Gwangwa also played a prominent role in conducting and arrangements on this album. Makeba herself had a number of albums issued in the Eastern block during the 1970s, after she became “self-exiled” from the US. The 1974 album A Promise was issued on the East German label Amiga and a compilation album Miriam Makeba was issued in Czechoslovakia on the Supraphon/Reprise label in 1974.

13) Charlie (Oh Mama) (c1966)
La Merveilleuse Miriam Makeba, French LP
(Mercury, 124 016 MDL, FRA)
An interesting earlier version of Milélé with English lyrics on Makeba’s first Mercury release, The Magnificent Miriam Makeba. The later version was included on the album Myriam Makeba & Bongi, issued on Syliphon Conakry in 1975.

14) Chomba Cha Ajaba (1968)
Le Bateau Miracle, French EP
(Campagne Mondiale Contre La Faim, FAO 01, Part 62.723, FRA)
Chomba Cha Ajaba is a Makeba adaption of French singer Gilbert Bécaud’s Le Bateau Miracle or The Miracle Boat. The EP, sponsored by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was issued in 1968 for their worldwide campaign against hunger. The EP was pressed in at least three countries: in France as Le Bateau Miracle, and in Ecuador and Mexico as El Barco Del Amor.

15) Malayisha (original studio version, 1967)
Golden Miriam Makeba, Japanese LP (c1968)
(Reprise, SWG 7113, JAP)
This Manhattan Brothers track has a huge hit for Makeba in 1967. Remarkably it was not issued on the Pata Pata album (from about the same time) and existed as a single only. The only two LPs that feature the original studio version are the Japanese compilation Golden Miriam Makeba and the Italian version of Pata Pata. Also the song can be found as an added bonus track on the US CD reissue of Pata Pata.

16) A Piece of Ground (live, August 28, 1968)
Miriam Makeba in Tokyo, Japanese LP (1968)
(Reprise, SJET 8082, JAP)
This track by Jeremy Taylor comes from one of Makeba’s rarest records, a Japan-only live recording made in Tokyo. (View it here at Electric Jive.)


17) The Ballad of Sad Young Men (demo, c1967)
18) Untitled (demo, c1967)
(Steel demo disc, Nola Penthouse Sound Studio, USA)
These two tracks are probably the rarest in the current selection. Both come from a steel demo disc featuring seven tracks, six of which would eventually appear on Makeba’s 1967 Mercury album All About Miriam. Of those tracks three would be further re-mixed on the famous Pata Pata album issued by Reprise in 1967. The tracks here are quite stripped down and my guess is they were used as reference for the future LPs. Their is a suggestion in the eBay auction that the disc may have come from the estate of Luchi DeJesus, the arranger of many of the tracks on All About Miriam and Pata Pata, but that is hard to verify. In all cases the final recordings are quite different from these demos but none are as distinct as The Ballad of Sad Young Men where the earlier version is quite somber compared with its upbeat final mix. This track is also most famous for being the b-side to the Pata Pata single. The Untitled demo track seems very familiar to me, but I can’t seem to identify it. Let us know if you recognize the tune.

19) Ibabalazie (original studio version, c1967) 
20) Emavungwini (Down in the Dumps) (c1968)
Miriam Makeba, Italian LP (issued 1968)
(Reprise, RI 5119, ITA)
Ibablazie is another Letta Mbulu song that quite frankly addresses that morning after phenomenon known as a “hangover.” Remarkably this funky original studio version never made the cut on any of Makeba’s official albums—generally the live version is featured. Also note the English lyrics in this version. Emavungwini, a tune by Douglas Xaba, is featured on what I think is Makeba’s best album simply titled Makeba! Both these tracks were great hits and were usually issued together as a single 45 rpm, one notable exception is the Italian version of the Pata Pata LP which includes both as additional tracks. While Emavingwini has been available through the CD reissue of the album Makeba!, neither of these tracks have been featured on any of her “best of” compilations.

21) You Suffer Too (1971)
La Guinee Guine, 45
(Editions Syliphone Conakry, SYL 536, FRA)
The bluesy You Suffer Too is the b-side of La Guinee Guine and comes from a series of 11 rare singles issued on the Syliphon Conakry label in the early 1970s, a period that spanned Makeba’s so-called “Guinea Years”— and which is also the title of a fabulous CD compilation of many of her songs from this period. The track unfortunately does not appear on the compilation. Perhaps its blues inflection did not meet the more African feel of the CD… but this track is one of my favorites.

22) Mansane Cissé (1973)
Africa, 45
(Editions Syliphone Conakry, SYL 551, FRA)
Mansane Cissé is the b-side to Africa, also on the Syliphone Conakry label. This traditional Senegalese tune is performed by what appears to be Makeba’s backing group, but ironically the instrumental does not include her voice. I however could not resist including it.

23) Les Trois Z (c1975)
24) I’mm You’mm We’mm (c1975)
(Disques Esperance, ESP 155027, FRA, 1978)
Les Trois Z is a political song from Zaire (now Congo) by Gérard Madiata. The term "Les Trois Z" referred to the “Authenticité” or authenticity campaign of Mobutu Sese Seko in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the late 1960s and early 70s, to “rid the country of the lingering vestiges of colonialism and the continuing influence of Western culture and to create a more centralized and singular national identity.” The campaign included renaming the country, the Congo River and the currency—“Zaire” and referred to them as Les Trois Z — Notre Pays, Notre Fleuve, Notre Monnaie (The Three Zs — Our Country, Our river, Our Money). Makeba’s version of the song was a significant influence on a young Angelique Kidjo who found early success with an adaption of it.
I’mm You’mm We’mm is the apparent b-side to Les Trois Z on this 1975 Disques Esperance single and, to my knowledge neither appeared on any of Makeba’s vinyl albums. Oddly, a pressing error reveals the b-side on this single to be Talking and Dialoging another less common track. I’mm You’mm We’mm does appear to be a studio recording and can be found on the German CD re-issue titled Live in Conakry but the track does not occur on the original 1970 LP Appel a L’Afrique.

25) Kwanong Zongo (Nongqongqo) (live, November 19, 1997)
Les Voix De La Paix, EP CD (1998)
(International Yehudi Menhuin Foundation, Q 885, FRA)
This is a live version of Nongqongqo, recorded in Brussels, comes from a concert Voices For Peace organized by the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation. The original version is featured on the classic album, An Evening with Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba, issued in 1965 and mentioned above. The song speaks about South African leaders—Sobukwe, Luthuli and Mandela—and their role in the struggle against apartheid.

At this point I should add the two tracks Makeba recorded for Toyota in 1980, but as those have already been featured on Electric Jive, perhaps I should end it here! Enjoy!

RS

39 comments:

  1. Incredible, educational, invaluable post. Thank you!

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  2. What a wonderful look a Miriam's musical life! Thank you for your dedication!

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  3. A massively pleasurable thing to behold! Your passion and scholarship have produced a great gift. Thanks Siemon.

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  4. this is rilly amazin'!!!!

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  5. Fantastic, Siemon - amazing work. :)

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  6. An amazing labour of love....! As ever thank you for sharing and giving access to so much!!

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  7. Thank you for this amazing (and no doubt time-consuming!) post. I've heard quite a bit of Miriam, but this adds a lot in sound and background to my Miriam knowledge. Great work!

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  8. I agree what an amzing compilation
    I cant wait to hear Le Trois Z collaboration with Makeba
    sincerely
    wuod K

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  9. What wonderful post.
    A big work for a result more than excellent.
    Simply fantastic!
    Muchas gracias / Thanks so much

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  10. Thank you everybody for your kind words and support!
    It really helps to have good material and Miriam Makeba is one of those prolific artists who generated a fantastic body of work over her 54 year recording career.

    I hope to do another one of these posts in the near future. Generally I focussed on vinyl and CD issues for this post, but I would also like to explore her 78 rpm material some time.

    Thanks again!

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  11. Wow. This is beyond the already high standards of the site. A major contribution that we can all share. Huge thanks for the effort & enlightenment.

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  12. Thank you Siemon,this is really a fantastic body of music and art with great background information !
    At a first listen I thought I could hear Masekela's Ha Lese Le Di Khanna ( The Dowry Song) on the untitled track ,especially in the intro,but as she starts to improvise it is not that clear. Much appreciated.
    Koos

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  13. i'm speechless...
    thanks so much!

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  14. Thank you for this stunning post! I learn so much here, always. Cheers.

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  15. So grateful! Many thanks. Robert in Tucson AZ USA

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  16. Great post Siemon-- would be interesting to see the Russian flip book.

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  17. Thank you for this awesome labor of love! Seriously good stuff. Thanks especially for the info on Rockin' in Rythym, an old favorite. Salud! -MB

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  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  19. Superb Siemon! "Long Live Mama Afrika!"

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  20. thank you for all that work.
    thank you very much.

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  21. Great post. Thanks very much for this excellent music.

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  22. Thank you for this gem!
    What a great collection of great songs from the best singer ever :)

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  23. Incredible. Thank you! Yes how does one get a copy of that flip book? have you come across any others like it (maybe even in english)?

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  24. Really incredible - You have given me a fully retrospectve of her musical career. The records of the Guineen years are still well known by older Malians in Ségou where I have lived for many years.

    Thank you very much

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  25. Really incredible - You have given me a fully retrospectve of her musical career. The records of the Guineen years are still well known by older Malians in Ségou where I have lived for many years.

    Thank you very much

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  26. Russian VO in Khawuleza:
    You hear the voice of Miriam Makeba. The singer tells us that the song was born in Black locations at the outskirts of Johannesburg. Children in ther streets, noticing the police coming to raid Blacks again, shout: 'Khawuleza, mama!' It means: 'Hurry up, Mum, hide! Please, don't let them catch you!'

    Thanks for the post. I had no idea Makeba's work had been released in the Soviet Union.

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  27. I was a "rabid" Beatlemaniac in NYC when I found Miriam sometime after '65....I was a young teen then, but I LOVED Miriam's music! My fellow Beatle fans were much bemused by my eclectic tastes. Gratifying to note that history has supported both my tastes in music.......:)

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  28. Oh my goodness. I am so eager to hear this heavenly music. Thank you so very much for such a labor of love and kindness.

    Iggy

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  29. really appreciable!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

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  30. Muito obrigado pela maravilhosa postagem da magnífica e inesquecível Miriam Makeba. Abraços do Brasil

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  31. Would anyone have any suggestions as to getting lyrics (and rough translation) for Malayisha? I've looked everywhere but to no avail. I've been a fan of hers for years and have many of her albums (as well as the limited number on CD).

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    1. Hi Donna, The Manhattan Brothers recorded the original version of Malayisha in 1951 (Gallotone, GB 1278). Though it is uncredited on the 78 rpm disc, I believe they were the composers of the tune. It is not clear whether Makeba's version has exactly the same lyrics (she credits herself as the composer) and she refers to a good-looking lumberjack in her song—Malayisha is his name. None of her singles or LPs appear to have the lyrics, though a Japanese 45 does list her spoken comments about the lumberjack.

      Makeba did issue a book with many of her lyrics in 1971:
      THE WORLD OF AFRICAN SONG by MIRIAM MAKEBA
      by Quadrangle Books, Chicago
      SBN 8129-0138-Xnn

      But I am not sure if Malayisha is in that book. You can find the book on Amazon and eBay.
      Good Luck!

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    2. If it will be of any help, I'd be happy to send you any US newspaper articles that reviewed her work or her concerts (I do research for a living). Meanwhile, I will follow up on your suggestions. It just seems so strange that a song which made the Hot 100 charts in the US does not seem to have available lyrics anywhere, whereas the lyrics to nearly all of her other songs are available in some form. Thanks again for the suggestions!

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  32. Listening to this for the first time. Incredible, uplifting music. You, sir, are a gentleman & a scholar, and have made the world a better place, as, of course, did MM.

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