Carlos Moore’s Fela: This Bitch of a Life, a newly re-released 1982 authorized biography, contains the usual makings of sociomusical hagiography: Fela’s stunning music, his uncompromising anticolonial message, and the many beatings and imprisonments he suffered as a result. But most readers likely already know the legend—what will surprise, sadly, is the Nigerian activist’s unvarnished sexism and uncritical pan-African worldview, writes Sam Baldwin for Mother Jones.
Consider this quote: “Equality between male and female? No! Never! Impossible!”—the book is full of them, writes Baldwin. Moore also documents how Fela’s undiscriminating pro-Africanism led him to support monsters like Idi Amin. Fela deserves credit for never taking the easy option of making “millions selling a vague African revolution” and enjoying dorm-room sainthood. But his story is a tragic one, writes Moore, “a fact too easily forgotten while listening to his albums”—but not while reading This Bitch of a Life.