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, 1,000 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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Comments (10)
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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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