1966 – Mississippi John Hurt dies of a heart attack

Although he was mostly an obscurity during his life, in the last few years, beginning with an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1964, Mississippi John Hurt became a star of the folk and blues scenes.

He had originally recorded back in the Twenties, but nothing much came of it, and by the time the Great Dperession killed Okeh (his label), he was back in Avalon, Mississippi, sharecropping. He would have stayed there if not for the efforts of musicologist Tom Hoskins, who tracked him down and convinced him to give it another go, with much better results.

But Hurt was already in his seventies by then, and his life had been marked by poverty and suffering. He died of a heart attack in 1966, although not before recording a few more sessions.

Referenced in:

Did You Hear John Hurt – Tom Paxton

1977 – Steve Biko dies in prison

Steve Biko was born in King William’s Town, south Africa in 1946. He went to the University of Natal, where he studied medicine. While he was studying, he became involved in various political causes. By the late sixties, he was head of the Black Consciousness Movement, a grassroots anti-apartheid movment.

Biko and the BCM played a significant role in organising the series of protests which culminated in the Soweto Uprising of 16 June, 1976. In the aftermath of the uprising, which was crushed by heavily armed police shooting school children protesting, the authorities began to target Biko further.

On the 21st of August, 1977, he was arrested at a roadblock. He was assaulted while in custody, and suffered severe injuries. On the 11th of September, he was driven, naked in the back of a police vehicle and still badly injured, for 1500 miles to Pretoria prison. He was declared dead shortly his arrival there, which the police claimed was due to a hunger strike.

Biko became a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement, and in a more general sense, of oppressed peoples everywhere.

Referenced in:

Biko – Peter Gabriel
I’m a African – Dead Prez
Biko Drum – Christy Moore
Mal Sacate – Kris Kristofferson
Biko – Sweet Honey in the Rock
Biko’s Kindred Lament – Steel Pulse
Tribute To Steve Biko – Tapper Zukie
A Motor Bike In Afrika – Peter Hammill
The Death of Stephen Biko – Tom Paxton
Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto – Sweet Honey in the Rock