Josh Groban To Honor Nelson Mandela
June 26, 2008
By Melissa Castellanos
Internationally Acclaimed Vocalist Joins Stellar Line-Up To Sing At Mandela's 90th Birthday Celebration

Classically influenced pop singer-songwriter Josh Groban has sold out arenas all around the world, but singing at a birthday celebration for one man - Nelson Mandella - may well be the highlight of his very successful career.

"Meeting him was one of the greatest honors of my life," Groban said. "I mean I don't get star-struck, but being in the presence of such a great human being was very humbling," Groban told of his first encounter with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning former South African president.

"I am so thrilled that I am going to London to perform for his 90th birthday," he said.

The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter has been added to the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Concert hosted by Will Smith and being held Friday, June 27, in London's Hyde Park.

The 27-year-old singer will join legendary folk-rock singer Joan Baez and Jerry Dammers (an Artists Against Apartheid organizer) whose song "Free Nelson Mandela" ignited the 80's anti-apartheid movement in the U.K., Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis, U2, Queen + Paul Rodgers, Annie Lennox, Simple Minds, Sir Paul McCartney, The Spice Girls, Sugababes, Dame Shirley Bassey, Keane and Razorlight.

The impressive lineup will also include an array of Africa's most praised artists, including Johnny Clegg, Soweto Gospel Choir and Papa Wemba.

Other prominent figures that are expected to be in attendance are British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former U.S. President Bill Clinton and U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

The concert marks the 20 years since London publicly urged Mandela's release from jail with Mandela's 70th Birthday Concert in 1988.

Groban first met Mandela when he was performing at a concert in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was instantly impressed with not only the sheer presence of Mandela, but his selflessly dedicating his entire life to helping his people.

Mandela appointed Groban an official ambassador for Mandela's Project 46664, a campaign to help raise global awareness of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Project 46664 is a reference to Mandela's prison number when he was jailed by South Africa's apartheid authorities.

"I was honored to be invited to Johannesburg for a concert," Groban said. "I told him (Mandela) that I would be at his beck and call for anything, as far as spreading the word. So, I am proud to be his official ambassador for his foundation. We have done a lot of work and raised a lot of money."

Inspired by Mandela's resonating desire to help others, Groban established the Josh Groban Foundation in 2004 that helps children in need throughout the world with education, healthcare, and the arts.

With the help of Groban's generous fans (also known as "Grobanites") over a $1 million has been raised for the Josh Groban Foundation. He has also performed for VH1 Save the Music, Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope, and Live 8.

Groban who sang with the African Children's Choir on "American Idol's" "Idol Gives Back" episode, acknowledges the power in numbers when it comes to audience participation and charity donations.

Although Groban is a supporter of "Idol Gives Back," he admits that he has some conflicting opinions of the show itself.

"I have very mixed feelings about the 'Idol' thing to be honest," Groban admitted. "I think there are great things about it when they do it right and things about it that are a little bit for entertainment value only, but certainly when there is something like 'Idol Gives Back' it's a perfect example of them using their tremendous power for a lot of good. I was really honored to be a part of it."

Groban was able to honor another legend in a tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti at the 2008 Grammy Awards, alongside pop opera singer Andrea Bocelli.

The two performed "The Prayer," which ironically was sung by Groban 10 years ago when he filled in for Bocelli as a rehearsal stand-in with Celine Dion.

"It was a tremendous honor for both of us," Groban said. "Andrea knew Luicano very, very well and I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times. He was one of the greatest voices of our generation.

"The song for me was one of my biggest breaks. It was a huge, full-circle moment for me," Groban reminisced. "It is such a beautiful song and it's such a great tribute to those we have lost. It was one of those moments I will remember forever."

Groban recently released his live CD/DVD "Awake Live," which was directed by Hamish Hamilton and performed at Salt Lake City's Energy Solutions Arena to a sold-out crowd of 15,000 on August 28, 2007.

He also took part in "Chess the Concert," which was performed at London's Royal Albert Hall on May 12-13, and will air on PBS stations in 2009.