Miriam Makeba led a life of song and protest. Google celebrates the South African singer Monday, on what would have been her 81st birthday.
Ms. Makeba played a big role in several important cultural movements across her 50-year career. She stood up against apartheid, acting as one of South Africa's most vocal activists. She played with Paul Simon and Harry Belafonte, introducing African music to many in the West. She became the first African woman to win a Grammy. And she helped shape the modern "Afro look."
Born 81 years ago today, Makeba grew up far from the world stage. Her father died when she was 6, forcing both her and her mother to take up a series of odd jobs. Makeba fell in love with music early on and discovered that her gift for singing could lift her out of poverty.
After bouncing from one band to another, Makeba wrote what would become her most popular song: "Pata Pata." This signature hit, which means "touch touch" in English, played on radio stations across South Africa. The song solidified her celebrity. When "Pata Pata" reached American shores a decade later, it captured audiences once again, rocketing to the No. 12 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Time magazine called her the "most exciting new singing talent to appear in many years."