Zenzile Miriam Makeba was born on March 4 1932 at Prospect township in Johannesburg.
Her mother was a Swazi sangoma and her father, who died when she was six, was Xhosa.
She started her singing career as a young girl while attending school in Pretoria.
Makeba first toured with an amateur group and her career took off in the 1950s with the Manhattan Brothers, before she formed her own group, The Skylarks, singing a blend of jazz and traditional melodies.
In 1959, she performed in the musical King Kong alongside Hugh Masekela,, her future husband. Though she was a successful recording artist, she received only a few rands for each recording session and no royalties.
Her break came when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary Come Back Africa produced in 1959 by independent filmmaker Lionel Rogosin. She attended the premier of the film at the Venice Film Festival.
Makeba then travelled to London where she met Harry Belafonte, who helped her gain entry to and fame in the US .
She released many of her most famous hits there, including Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in isiXhosa) and Malaika.
In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording with Harry Belafonte for An Evening With Belafonte - Makeba. The album dealt with the plight of black South Africans under apartheid.
After testifying against apartheid before the UN, she discovered that her South African passport had been revoked when she tried to return in 1960 for her mother's funeral.
Her marriage to Trinidadian civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael in 1968 caused controversy in the US, and her record deals and tours were cancelled.
The couple moved to Guinea, where they became close friends with President Ahmed Sékou Touré and his wife.
Makeba separated from Carmichael in 1973, and continued to perform primarily in Africa, South America and Europe.
She performed at the 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman held in Zaïre. Makeba also served as a Guinean delegate to the United Nations, for which she won the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace Prize in 1986.
After the death of her only daughter Bongi in 1985, she moved to Brussels.
In 1987, she appeared on Paul Simon's Graceland tour. Shortly thereafter she published her autobiography Makeba: My Story.
Nelson Mandela persuaded her to return home in 1990.
In 1992 she starred in the film Sarafina!as the main character's mother, Angelina.
In 2000, her album Homeland was nominated for a Grammy Award in the "Best World Music" category.
In 2001 she was awarded the Gold Otto Hahn Peace Medal by the United Nations Association of Germany in Berlin, "for outstanding services to peace and international understanding". In 2002, she shared the Polar Music Prize with Sofia Gubaidulina.
In 2004, Makeba was voted 38th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. Makeba started a worldwide farewell tour in 2005.
Finally, on November 9 2008, she suffered a heart attack after singing her hit song Pata Pata at a performance in Castel Volturno, near Caserta in Italy, organised to support writer Roberto Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like organisation in the region of Campania. - Wikipedia