Last night on The Two on Newstalk ZB we paid tribute to Nelson Mandela, taking calls from listeners for the entire three hours about what the great man meant to them. One of the callers was none other than former Commodores bassist Ronald LaPread. Having grown up in Alabama during the Civil Rights era, LaPread had this to say:
“By being a black man I understand the struggle, the struggle has always been there. But to struggle and then remain dignified is something else. Now that I’m older, I look back on marching with Martin Luther King and protesting and sitting on the steps of the church and getting sprayed by water as a growing event. That is something that was fertiliser in my life to make my tree a little bit stronger.”
Click below to hear the 1980 Commodores song Heroes that Pam and I played on the radio in tribute to Mandela. One of the lesser-known Commodores ballads, the song is simultaneously honouring the towering leaders of history like Martin Luther King Junior (and now Mandela) as well as the “plain old people” who are heroes too. Like all good Commodores songs, whether it’s funk, soul, country, pop or gospel, there’s always an almighty Ronald LaPread bassline, especially prominent towards the song’s closing.