The “Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

Main MenuConcept Refinement The Author..Wayne JancikGolden Age Of The 50sGolden Age Of The 60s1970s and There After



“Pata Pata”

(MIRIAM MAKEBA, Jerry Ragavoy)

Reprise 0608

No. 12   November 25, 1967




Miriam Makeba (b. Zensi Makeba, Mar. 4, 1932, Johan­nesburg, South Africa) has had more than her fair

share of trials and tribulations. In her 1988 autobiography, Makeba: My Story, she details her exile from

South Africa (1960), several bouts with cancer, the death of a daughter, five marriages (among her

husbands were HUGH MASEKELA and Stokely Carmichael), and 11 car crashes. She also describes being

blackballed by the music industry following her 1968 marriage to black radical Stokely Carmichael.


Miriam’s parents were of the Xhosa nation; she was born in Prospect Township. For eight years, she

received a musical education through the Methodist­ sponsored KilmertonTraining School in Pretoria.

Miriam sang in school and church choirs, and toured in the late ’50s with the 11-man Black Manhattan

Brothers musical revue. A bit part in an American documentary, Come Back Africa (1959)–as a singer in a

shebeen, an illegal club where blacks are served alcohol–brought Makeba international attention, even

though she only sang two numbers in the movie. Concert engagements were soon lined up in Venice,

London, and the U.S.


STEVE ALLEN and Harry Belafonte befriended Miri­am, becoming her mentors. Reviewing her perfor­mance

at New York’s Village Vanguard, Newsweek dubbed her “easily the most revolutionary talent to appear in

any medium in the last decade.”  She record­ed one successful album after another: The World of Miriam

Makeba (1963), The Voice of Africa (1964), An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba (1965), Miriam Make­ba

in Concert (1967), and Pata Pata (1967). “Pata Pata” was issued as a single, and its success took many

people by surprise.


“The song ‘Pata Pata’ was a turning point because it was a hit,” Makeba told the Chicago Tribune. “I didn’t

understand why that one became so popular, because it’s one of my most insignificant songs. And here I

have songs that I think are very serious, and people remem­ber ‘Pata Pata.”‘


The next year, Miriam followed up “Pata Pata” with “Malayisha” (#85, 1968).  She married Stokely Car­

michael, the controversial black-power activist, with disastrous consequences. “My marriage to Stokely

didn’t change my life–it just made my career disappear in [the U.S.] and England!  I don’t know why people

that to me…. I married him, and then all my contracts were canceled.”


Miriam continued singing her mixture of traditional and jazz-influenced pop, nor has she curtailed her

political activities. When South Mrica was still under apartheid, she had made four appearances before the

United Nations to testify against South Africa’s racial policies. After a 20-year vinyl hiatus in the U.S., she

released Sangoma, an album of sacred trib­ al songs, in 1988.


Miriam died of a heart attack, November 9, 2009.