Song: “Grazing In The Grass” by Hugh Masakela
Reached #1: July 20, 1968 (his first, 2 weeks)
Of course, Hugh Masakela had to leave South Africa to make it in the music business – he could never have been as successful in the apartheid era in South Africa. He left in 1960 after the Boers shot up a peaceful demonstration, killing 69.
He quickly acclimated to America’s jazz scene, playing Monterey in ‘67 before releasing his sole #1 hit in 1968.
Masakela’s original version is an instrumental, but you might have heard the vocal version – the lyrics were added by Friends of Distinction songwriter Harry Elston in 1969 for their version, which reached #3 on the Hot 100.
Younger readers who hear the name “Masakela” are probably asking… and you’re right. Long-time X Games host Sal Masakela is, indeed, Hugh’s son. They did a series of vignettes in 2010 for ESPN’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, showing Hugh taking Sal “home” to the country he’d left 50 years earlier – Sal’s first visit to his father’s homeland.
Tomorrow, a song about a bad, bad man…
Other songs that reached #1 on July 20:
1963 – “Surf City” by Jan and Dean (their first, 2 weeks)
1991 – “Unbelievable” by EMF (their first, 1 week)