Friday, July 01, 2016

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Hugh Masekela

Artist:Hugh Masekela
Song:Grazing In The Grass
Album:Grazing In The Grass

South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela topped the charts with Grazing In The Grass in 1968. Though it was a surprise hit and Masekela is perceived as a one hit wonder, some of his other singles did chart and he's still around at 77 years old. He was born Apr. 4, 1939 in Witbank, South Africa. He learned to play piano as a child. After watching Kirk Douglas play Bix Beiderbecke in the 1950 film Young Man With A Horn, his high school chaplain gave Masekela a trumpet. Then he started playing in local bands. With Apartheid in South Africa, things were brutal for black musicians and many of them left the country. In 1960, British musician John Dankworth brought Masekela to England. He studied at London's Guildhall School of Music. Then he came to the US and Harry Belafonte got Masekela into the Manhattan School of Music in New York. He also married Miriam Makeba who toured with Belafonte. They divorced two years later. After recording for Mercury and MGM, Masekela signed with UNI Records. After he charted with his cover of Up, Up and Away, Masekela recorded the 1968 album The Promise of a Future. The album was produced by Crusaders producer Stewart Levine. The story goes that UNI exec Russ Regan thought the album was too short. So Grazing In The Grass was added almost as an afterthought. Masekela wrote the song with an actor friend Philemon Hou. Surprisingly, Grazing In The Grass topped the charts. Musicians on the album were Al Abreu on sax, Bill Henderson on piano, Henry Franklin on bass and Chuck Carter on drums. Of course Friends Of Distinction leader Harry Elston wrote lyrics for Grazing In The Grass and it was a big hit for them. Masekela has recorded for many labels and he's still active at 77 years old. Probably his most high profile gig was touring with Paul Simon in the 80s. Masekela's son Sal Masekela works for ESPN and the two produced short films about South Africa to go along with ESPN's coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. You can get Hugh Masekela's original recording of Grazing In The Grass on this budget comp from Verve's European label Jazzclub. Beware of rerecorded versions. It looks like he is currently touring Europe. Here's Hugh Masekela performing Grazing In The Grass with an all star band of Stevie Wonder on harmonica, Jimmy Heath on sax, George Duke on piano, Lionel Loueke on guitar, Christian McBride on bass and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums at the United Nations for International Jazz Day Apr. 30, 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Loved that musical piece by him. First heard that in my mother's car as she hauled me and my brother around while shopping for groceries. That is how I heard a lot of music growing up. On the AM pop radio stations my mother used to listen to. His Jazz piece "Grazin in the Grass" was a crossover hit back when it was easier for hits like that to be played on pop radio stations. Good memories.