More popular than The Beatles
July 28, 2017 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Twenty years ago the man who recorded one of the most successful songs of all time was thrown off a motorbike by a car in Calabar, Nigeria. He hit his head on the road and was rushed to the hospital, where he lay for two weeks, in and out of consciousness, but deteriorating all the time. On June 24, 1997, Prince Nico Mbarga was pronounced dead. Previous mention of Mbarga.
posted by Literaryhero (11 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
I knew the song, but was not aware of its success, never mind the story Mbarga. Thanks for this!
posted by Kabanos at 8:37 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I didn't even know the song, and it's great; so is the linked piece:
Over the last few months, I have tried to piece together a more textured story: traveling to Mbarga’s hometown to talk to his childhood friend, his wife and his mistress; tracking down his former band members from Cameroon to France to the US; prodding the memory of his octogenarian producer; and reading rare transcripts of his interviews.

Twenty years after his death, this is the obituary that never was.
Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 8:42 AM on July 28


Oh, and the story (and photos) are by Sami Kent.
posted by languagehat at 8:45 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Very interesting piece. I first heard "Sweet Mother" when it was nestled into side 2 of the WOMAD Music and Rhythm 2-LP set between a dubbed-up version of English Beat's "Mirror in the Bathroom" and Mighty Sparrow's "Music and Rhythm".

That's my favorite side of the album because of that 1-2-3 lineup, with Prince Nico keeping the fire burning.

Thanks for posting.
posted by the sobsister at 9:17 AM on July 28


Didn't know the song, will listen to it when I'm done work, but also am curious why wikipedia is lying to me about it's popularity because ctrl-F "Sweet Mother" yields nothing here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_singles
posted by Grither at 11:36 AM on July 28


What a fantastic, in-depth article. Love this.
posted by desuetude at 11:39 AM on July 28


The sound of the song and the lyrics are so incredibly incongruous...the light joy, dancing and freedom of the music, which is the opposite of a mother-child relationship.
posted by serena15221 at 3:34 PM on July 28


The sound of the song and the lyrics are so incredibly incongruous...the light joy, dancing and freedom of the music, which is the opposite of a mother-child relationship.

I truly hope that if my kids were mefites, they would take issue with you here.
posted by she's not there at 8:17 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


“If you forget your mother, you’ve lost your life.”
thank you mum for all my life
.
posted by anadem at 9:22 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


From that Wikipedia link, Grither:
The sales of singles that are italicized are the compilation of sales in available markets instead of a worldwide sales figure. These sales figures are therefore neither complete nor definitive.
I'm okay with giving the article the benefit of the doubt, and it seems Wikipedia is as well. ;)
posted by lumensimus at 1:48 AM on July 29


Whenever somebody's birthday pops up on Facebook, my go to link is Prince Nico's "Happy Birthday"

Other east Nigerian and Cameroonian bands in the 1960s worked in a similar style, like Super Negro Bantous and ikenga Super Stars of Africa.
posted by zaelic at 1:21 AM on July 30 [4 favorites]


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