Maya Angelou Reads Her Poem, “The Human Family,” in New iPhone Ad Released for the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony

It’s always demoralizing when a favorite song—Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” or the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” come to mind—is co-opted to sell soda or Caribbean cruises.

Poetry, however? I’m not ungrateful to have some smuggled into my day by a commercial carrier whose agenda is somehow less suspect. Would that we lived in a world where the poetry of Ted Hughes or Emily Dickinson might be seen as having the power to sell viewers on a particular brand of pizza or automobile.

It almost seems we do, given the response to “The Human Family,” a new Apple spot showcasing the iPhone’s camera capabilities with a slideshow of portraits submitted by users the world round. The images—already captivating—are made more so by the unmistakeable voice of the late Maya Angelou, whose poem, “The Human Family,” supplies both title and inspiration.

It’s very stirring, as befits an ad debuting during the Olympics’ opening ceremony. (I weep that the Super Bowl failed to make the Dr. Angelou commercial parodies of yore a reality.)

The one-minute spot shaves a bit off the poem, but perhaps it is okay to leave a bit behind as a reward for viewers moved to look it up on their own.

The complete text is here. Below, find a non-Apple-sponsored video that matches the same narration to a slideshow featuring the author at various stages of life. The reading will be added to our collection, 700 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

via Adweek

Related Content:

Watch a Music Video & Hear Tracks From Maya Angelou’s Posthumous Hip-Hop Album, Caged Bird Songs

Maya Angelou Reads “Still I Rise” and “On the Pulse of the Morning”

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her latest script, Fawnbook, is available in a digital edition from Indie Theater Now.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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  • Robin says:

    Where is the credit to her for her voice and her words within the commercial along with credit to all those iPhone camera users??

  • Nate says:

    I don’t think she would have approved of slave labor and environmental toxin by products…

  • Claire says:

    I have always loved poetry but this one is truly inspiring to me. I loved hearing it read by its amazing and wonderful creator. Beautiful! Just beautiful!

  • Michelle Fishermichelle.risher says:

    Why don’t they acknowledge Maya Angelou (sorry, for autocorrect) as the author?

  • Peggy says:

    I love this poem and would love to have it framed and hanging in my home. Or more affordable book markers that we can have for ourselves and give as gifts to many.

  • Jeannie Sheldon says:

    This touches my soul every time I hear it. I agree with others Ms. Angelou’s name should have been listed. Yes, to many we know that beautiful voice but think how many would know of her it you had acknowledged her.

  • JaysFam says:

    So, in as much peace and grace as I can muster, I ask, why is the poet not credited for her work in this commercial?

  • Tom L says:

    I like the ad. One of my favorite of the current on today. But it is still an ad and I don’t understand the difference noted above. The objective is to sell a product. Some do it more tastefully than others and for products that are better than others. But, it’s still an ad with the purpose of marketing a product.

  • nameless says:

    Nice poem..but sorry to say i cant stand her voice! I change the channel everytime its on..just grinds my gears hard

  • Jon taylor says:

    I have never figured out anything she ever said. They still aren’t sure what her speech at the inaugural was all about.
    But…. The whole world knows why she gets a pass for writing sub par lines….
    Don’t we!

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