Anti-Apartheid anthem is actually about gay rights, singer reveals
British musician Labi Siffre has revealed that he wrote famous Anti-Apartheid anthem ‘Something Inside So Strong’ about his experiences as a gay man.
The singer rose to fame in the 1970s, and is known for penning ‘(Something Inside) So Strong’ while apartheid was in effect in South Africa.
The song was adopted by the anti-apartheid movement as a rallying anthem, for its lyrics including: “The farther you take my rights away the faster I will run/ You can deny me, you can decide to turn your face away.”
However, the singer revealed to the Radio 4’s Today Show that the song was actually inspired by his experiences as a gay men.
He was asked: “That particular song is seen very much as an Anti-Apartheid anthem – is that the way we should see it?”
Siffre, 70, responded: “As soon as I’d written the first two lines, ‘the higher you build your barriers the taller I become’, I realised with a shock that I was writing about my life as a homosexual.
“From knowing I was gay when I was four, long before I’d even heard the words homophobia and homosexuality, and then went through the societal abuse of being told that as a black man and as a homosexual, I was a wicked evil disgusting pervert.
He added: “I tend to find in my life that human rights and good things are like spotlights. They move. Good things happen here, then they move, and bad things take their place.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a little too early to say everything’s changed.”
Speaking about his 2005 civil partnership with late partner of 50 years Peter Lloyd, he said: “These were practical things for me, and they were things that I burned about, waiting for the society I lived in to grow a perceivable backbone.
“It took such a long time, that my life and the life of homosexuals of my age – in the same way as black Americans of my age… it’s too late to wipe away what some people would call bitterness, and I would call justifiable hurt. The wound that will never heal.
“I will never, as a gay man and a black man, ever feel comfortable in the land of my birth. I feel a little more comfortable – I got married, and that’s great.”
Watch a clip of the song below: