Born Oct. 15, 1938. Died Aug. 2, 1997, Nigeria. His original middle name was Ransome, but he later changed it to Anikulapo, which means "he who holds Death in his pocket". He attended Trinity Music College in Oxford, England from 1959 to 1962 and traveled extensively as he formed his philosophy of political protest against the abuses of Nigeria's various and sundry corrupt dictatorships.
By the 1970s, his passionate, hypnotic music had a powerful impact on Nigerian politics and made him a target for government retaliation, as evidenced by his frequent stints in jail and the burning of his house in 1977. He never let up in his fight against corruption, and even used his mother's corpse and coffin as part of a protest against a Nigerian dictator in 1979.
Fela was well known for his legendary promiscuity and his 27 wives, one of which bore his son, Femi Kuti. Despite the burgeoning AIDS epidemic, Fela considered condoms and the threat of disease to be tools of a white conspiracy to keep blacks from reproducing, so he defiantly engaged in unprotected sex and eventually died from the disease.