Bruce Springsteen kicked off his first ever tour of South Africa last night (January 26) with a rousing rendition of The Special AKA's protest song Free Nelson Mandela.

The Boss avoided playing South Africa during the Apartheid era and said that while he had never met Mandela, he felt honoured to have just "been alive on this Earth at the same time".

Speaking to Sky News before the gig in Cape Town, Springsteen said he was inspired by the late South African President's ability to forgive those who jailed him for 27 years. "You just don't often get people like that." he said.

Free Nelson Mandela was written by Jerry Dammers and released in 1984. It was a No 6 hit in Ireland at the time.

In 1985, Springsteen joined U2, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Steven Van Zandt, founder of Artists Against Apartheid, to record Sun City in protest against the whites-only resort of the same name.