Today, we’re honoring the history of “Grazing in the Grass,” originally recorded by Hugh Masekela (1939 - 2018), a legendary South African jazz trumpeter and an anti-apartheid activist who lived in exile for much of his life. Masekela moved to the US in the early 60s, where he remained outspoken against South African apartheid as well as the oppression of Black Americans.
When creating “Grazing in the Grass,” Masekela and composer Philemon Hou found inspiration (for both its tune and its title) from the song “Mr. Bull no. 4,” which Masekela first heard in Zambia. Masekela’s joyful 1968 instrumental quickly soared to #1 on the US Billboard charts.
The lyrics we know today came later, from the American pop quartet The Friends of Distinction, who added vocals in their popular 1969 version: “I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it…”
Since then, many bands have played versions of Grazing in the Grass, including Rebirth Brass Band and Jack Brass Band (and us!) We thank Hugh Masekala for his contributions to music and towards the fight for liberation.