The day I elbowed aside Lou Reed to grab a word with Nelson Mandela

It’s 1990, the South African icon is free at last, and an intrepid young journalist buttonholes him backstage at Wembley Stadium

It was 1990 and Nelson Mandela had just been released after 27 years in prison. The music industry organised a welcome home party and Mandela was invited to appear at an International Tribute For a Free South Africa at Wembley Stadium. I was freelancing at The Voice, Britain’s biggest black newspaper at the time. As the day approached the music editor Dotun Adebayo rang to say he’d been detained in LA by a story on the West Coast’s febrile gangsta rap scene.

Mandela poured his freckly, beatific gaze on me. I sensed a question in those sparkling eyes: ‘Aren’t you a white guy?’

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