QUEEN THE GREATEST EPISODE 44. QUEEN 2003 : MANDELA’S CALL
“Queen The Greatest”: a celebration of 50 of the greatest moments
from the Queen story so far
The story of how Brian and Roger found it impossible to ignore a phone call from Nelson Mandela saying "can you rescue my concert?"
“You know, we’re not politicians, we’re just musicians using what we do as a platform to just raise awareness effectively, and if you can get on TV in most of the countries in the world, that’s quite a good way of raising awareness.”
28 JANUARY 2022 (TORONTO, ON) - This week’s Queen The Greatest episode marks another extraordinary moment in Queen history after Brian and Roger answered a call from Nelson Mandela, setting in motion a series of extraordinary gatherings of the world’s biggest music artists to honour the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela while promoting awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, established under the identity of 46664, Mandela’s prison number under which he was held at Cape Town’s Robben Island until 1982.
In 2003, a call came through from Nelson Mandela, asking for Queen’s help with a concert for AIDS awareness in Cape Town. But, he wasn’t just asking for them to perform….
Brian May: “We answered the call to Madiba. Nelson Mandela is suddenly on the phone saying ‘can you rescue my concert’, and we produced it for him, and we went out there and we really didn’t imagine that the by-product would be that we would be re-engaging with an audience.”
Brian May: “Something to tell your grandchildren I think. To be in the presence of such greatness, and to be a part of this whole venture, I just feel incredibly privileged.”
The launch of the campaign would be the first 46664 The Concert at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town on 29th November 2003. The concert took place in front of an audience of 40,000 and broadcast around the world via TV, webcast and radio.
Designed to raise awareness of the global HIV pandemic, it was an emotional night, packed with some truly memorable performances as music icons and public figures from around the world including Anastacia, Beyonce, Bob Geldof, Bono and the Edge, the Eurythmics, Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor, and Oprah Winfrey, shared the stage with many of South Africa’s best know artists, among them Johnny Clegg, Angelique Kidjo, and the Soweto Gospel Choir.
In addition to producing the concert, and appearing as part of the incredible line-up, Brian and Roger both composed new songs, especially for the event. At the concert Queen performed three news songs inspired by Mandela's appeal; 'Say It's Not True', 'The Call' and 'Invincible Hope', the last track featuring a sample of one of Mandela's famous speeches
Coverage of the concert reached more than 2 billion people in 166 countries, making it the most widely distributed media event in history.
Roger Taylor: “You know, we’re not politicians, we’re just musicians using what we do as a platform to just raise awareness effectively, and if you can get on TV in most of the countries in the world, that’s quite a good way of raising awareness, I think. So this is really a way of pressurising politicians and pharmaceutical companies to make the drugs cheaply, or freely available.”
Brian May: “We’ll be looking for a sustained commitment and I think we’re making it ourselves, I mean we certainly feel that we would like in some way to continue this wonderful club that has come together, the 46664 banner if you like, the trademark. And we’d like to continue on, and keep hammering away and make sure this isn’t just a little puff in the wind.”
In the coming years Queen would be involved in further 46664 concerts in Norway, again in South Africa, and with a final UK concert in London’s Hyde Park on 27 June 2008 attended by 46,664 people that both celebrated Nelson Mandela’s ninetieth birthday and formed part of the 46664 concert series – and further keeping Freddie’s legacy alive by answering the call in the on-going Global fight against the AIDS pandemic.