"Grazing in the Grass" Hugh Masekela has passed away

Anything to do with the world of music...old or new

"Grazing in the Grass" Hugh Masekela has passed away

Postby jon » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:12 pm

South African Jazz Legend Hugh Masekela Dies at 78
1/23/2018 by Associated Press

Legendary South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela has died at the age of 78 after a decade-long fight with cancer, according to a statement from his family on Tuesday (Jan. 23). Often called the “Father of South African jazz,” Masekela died in Johannesburg after what his family said was a “protracted and courageous battle with prostate cancer.”

Trumpeter, singer and composer Masekela, affectionately known locally as “Bra Hugh,” started playing the horn at 14 and quickly became an integral part of the 1950s jazz scene in Johannesburg as a member of the Jazz Epistles.

In the 1960s he went into exile in the United Kingdom and the United States, where he collaborated with American jazz legend Harry Belafonte and used his music to spread awareness about the oppressive system of white-minority rule in South Africa. He also scored an international number one hit in 1968 with “Grazing In The Grass.”

He collaborated with many musicians including Paul Simon and Herb Alpert. He was married to South African singer and activist Miriam Makeba for two years.

Many of his compositions were about the struggle for majority rule and full democratic rights in South Africa. Masekela’s catchy composition “Bring Him Back Home” calling for Nelson Mandela to be released from prison became an international anthem for the anti-apartheid movement.

“Hugh’s global and activist contribution to and participation in the areas of music, theatre, and the arts in general is contained in the minds and memory of millions across six continents,” the family statement read.

In October last year, Masekela issued a statement that he had been fighting prostate cancer since 2008 and would have to cancel his professional commitments to focus on his health. He said he started treatment after doctors found a “small ‘speck’” on his bladder, and had surgery in March 2016 after the cancer spread.

Masekela also said he felt an “imbalance” and had an eye problem after a fall in April in Morocco in which he sprained his shoulder. He said another tumor was then discovered and he had surgery. “I’m in a good space, as I battle this stealthy disease, and I urge all men to have regular tests to check your own condition,” his statement said, asking the media for privacy.

Condolences from fans poured out Tuesday on social media paying tribute to the influential musician’s career.

“A baobob tree has fallen,” Nathi Mthethwa, South Africa’s minister for arts and culture, wrote on Twitter. “The nation has lost a one of a kind musician . We can safely say Bra Hugh was one of the great architects of Afro-Jazz and he uplifted the soul of our nation through his timeless music.”

South African President Jacob Zuma expressed his condolences, saying Masekela “kept the torch of freedom alive globally, fighting apartheid through his music and mobilizing international support for the struggle for liberation and raising awareness of the evils of apartheid ... His contribution to the struggle for liberation will never be forgotten.”

Masekela inspired generations of musicians in jazz and beyond and collaborated in recent years with South African house music DJ Black Coffee and others. “I have no words,” the DJ said Tuesday on Twitter.

Listen to "Grazing in the Grass" at the bottom of the article posted by Billboard: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news ... nd-dies-78
User avatar
jon
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 9107
Joined: Mon May 08, 2006 9:15 am
Location: Edmonton

Re: "Grazing in the Grass" Hugh Masekela has passed away

Postby jon » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:18 pm

I have to thank Pat St. John for hearing about this. He did a nice tribute to Hugh followed by a Twin Spin, complete with sung jingle, of "Grazing in the Grass" by Hugh and The Friends of Distinction.

Harry Elston was the member of the Friends of Distinction who wrote the words to what had previously been an instrumental.
User avatar
jon
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 9107
Joined: Mon May 08, 2006 9:15 am
Location: Edmonton

Re: "Grazing in the Grass" Hugh Masekela has passed away

Postby drmusic » Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:32 pm

There's a great picture in the Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Normally there's one page for each song, with a photo of the artist. But it just so happened that Grazing in the Grass followed Herb Alpert's recording of "This Guy's In Love with You" into the number one position -- and it also happened that there was a photo of Alpert and Masekela leaning on each other, so they used that photo across the two pages.

RIP.
User avatar
drmusic
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 369
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:56 pm
Location: the Great Prairie West

Re: "Grazing in the Grass" Hugh Masekela has passed away

Postby Richard Skelly » Tue Jan 23, 2018 3:32 pm

Thanks drmusic for the tidbit on an the Herb-and-Hugh photo.

Quite a summer for trumpet players in 1968. Alpert held down #1 for a month with This Guy’s In Love With You, followed by two weeks of Masekela’s Grazing In The Grass holding the top spot. Of course, there was far more horns audible in Hugh’s Grazing than Herb’s vulnerable-voice-and-piano arrangement of This Guy’s...

In addition to trumpet, Hugh also played flugelhorn and cornet. Years after Grazing, Hugh’s involvement with Paul Simon helped legitimize the latter’s Graceland-era focus on African-influenced music. Despite hiring a plethora of African musicians, Simon was decried as a cultural carpetbagger. He also took it on the chin for performing in South Africa which some critics felt violated an economic boycott of the then-apartheid nation.

Personally, I think Hugh Masekela, Paul Simon and Peter Gabiel (who memorialized slain activist Steve Biko) were among the cultural warriors who all played parts in South Africa transitioning to non-apartheid governance.
Richard Skelly
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Mon May 11, 2015 4:52 pm

Re: "Grazing in the Grass" Hugh Masekela has passed away

Postby jon » Tue Jan 23, 2018 3:57 pm

Richard Skelly wrote:Despite hiring a plethora of African musicians, Simon was decried as a cultural carpetbagger.

Part of the so-called problem with the Graceland album, from the World Music purist point of view, is that the lyrics that Paul wrote were on U.S. cultural themes, rather than South African. Some purists would insist on English translations of the original lyrics, when they existed for the melodies.

The late Max Ferguson is a good example, because many of us really admire the man for his pioneering World Music programming on the CBC. In one of his last shows before he retired, he was still really upset, nearly 40 years later, that The Tokens had recorded "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" because he felt it was an insult to the original South African recording.

Closer to home, back in 1974, I had a similar disagreement with a CFYK listener who was also a co-worker at my day job. I played a couple of the Top 40 instrumental hits that were famous classical music standards played as Pop, like Waldo De Los Rios doing Mozart's 40th Symphony, on the Saturday Morning Show. And he felt that I should have played each of them by whatever Symphony Orchestra had the best known performance. I explained that I was appealing to an audience that might not be familiar with, or even tolerant of, classical music, especially at that time of day, and it could be a way to get some listeners interested in classical music.
User avatar
jon
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 9107
Joined: Mon May 08, 2006 9:15 am
Location: Edmonton

Re: "Grazing in the Grass" Hugh Masekela has passed away

Postby Richard Skelly » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:11 pm

Excellent points, especially about old battles over playing pop remakes of original source World or Classical compositions. Upon learning of Hugh Masekela’s passing, I recalled what an extraordinary and extended period of Top 40 Radio he briefly prospered in. Loping jazz instrumentals could competitively vie for listener ears with conventional pop and rock, psychedelia, torch ballads, blues, spoken word, novelty music hall and cornpone country, recast World and Classic traditionals...to name a few genres.

Maybe I’m just an old git, but such popularly received musical diversity would seem hard to duplicate these days with audio-ADD afflicted fans placing artists’ looks and mostly Autotuned voices over eclectic repertoire. (Guess I should end that point with “Now get off my lawn!”.)

Regarding Hugh Masekela, I should have given credit to his former wife Miriam Makeba for advancing awareness of quite authentic African music and for being at the forefront of artists championing the end of apartheid in South Africa.

I also should have mentioned how my original aversion to the subsequent vocal cover version of Grazing In The Grass changed over time.

Recorded by the Friends Of Distinction a year after the original, the choral Grazing seemed, to my ears, a cheesy knockoff by a group trying desperately to sound like The 5th Dimension. Think it was the late Dave McCormick who later apprised me that the Friends and the 5ths shared common roots. Turned out that future Friends Harry Elston and Floyd Butler (RIP) trod boards with future 5ths Marilyn McCoo and Lamonte McLemore in the HI-Fis, a Ray Charles backup group that briefly recorded together. Adding further cred was the fact Elston had the wit and wordplay to write the lyrics to the purely instrumental Grazing In The Grass.

Unless I’m mistaken, both versions of Grazing were recorded within blocks of each other in Los Angeles. Not unreasonable to think one or more Wrecking Crew sessionists played on both hits.
Richard Skelly
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Mon May 11, 2015 4:52 pm


Return to Music Notes

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests