July 26, 1986 — Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” reaches #1 on the US charts

1986’s “So” was Peter Gabriel’s fourth solo album, and the first one not to be self-titled – and it’s possible that being able to refer directly to the album without confusing anyone may have improved sales of this one. But even so, the success of “Sledgehammer” was unprecedented in Gabriel’s career.

A lot of it probably came down to the sheer brilliance of the clip for the song: 4 minutes and 58 seconds of surrealist stop-motion animation featuring plasticene, frozen chickens, chalk on a blackboard and of course, Gabriel himself. The clip won a record nine MTV Video Music Awards, and is also the most frequently played clip in the history of MTV.

September 12, 1977 — Steve Biko dies in prison

Steve Biko was born in King William’s Town, south Africa in 1946. He went to the University of Natal, where he studied medicine. While he was studying, he became involved in various political causes. By the late sixties, he was head of the Black Consciousness Movement, a grassroots anti-apartheid movment.

Biko and the BCM played a significant role in organising the series of protests which culminated in the Soweto Uprising of 16 June, 1976. In the aftermath of the uprising, which was crushed by heavily armed police shooting school children protesting, the authorities began to target Biko further.

On the 21st of August, 1977, he was arrested at a roadblock. He was assaulted while in custody, and suffered severe injuries. On the 11th of September, he was driven, naked in the back of a police vehicle and still badly injured, for 1500 miles to Pretoria prison. He was declared dead shortly his arrival there, which the police claimed was due to a hunger strike.

Biko became a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement, and in a more general sense, of oppressed peoples everywhere.