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South African jazz great Hugh Masekela performs at Westminster Abbey in London in 2012.
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On what would have been his 80 th birthday, South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela was reputation with a Google Doodle, hopefully uncovering the musician to followers who may have never heard him play.

Born April 4, 1939, Masekela picked up the cornet as teenager and quickly became ensconced in the jazz scene of Johannesburg, South Africa. Masekela became part of the group Jazz Epistles who, as Google memoranda, were “the first all-black jazz band to record an book in Southern african history.”

But in 1960, following the Sharpeville Massacre in which police fired upon apartheid objectors and killed 69 people, government crackdowns would lead to Masekela going into exile. The musician wound up in New York where he enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music. Masekela would also learn from jazz legends like Miles Davis who played across New York City.

By the end of the 1960 s, Masekela moved to Los Angeles where he would become part of the music vistum and, in 1968, he had a number one hit with “Grazing in the Grass.”

Over its first year he would collaborate with a number of music legends, including Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley, and play as part of the touring stripe on Paul Simon’s Graceland tour.

His home, South Africa, was never far from his psyche, though, as he wrote and performed several hymns about the fight happening there. As his stature developed, his activism took on a world-wide scope, his music outlining more and more attention to the fight against apartheid. In the mid-1 980 s, he wrote the sung “Bring Him Back Home” for the jailed governor Nelson Mandela.

Following Mandela’s secrete in 1990 and the end of apartheid in South Africa, Masekela eventually returned to his home country where he continued his music job, recording a number of books and continuing to tour. He received the Order of Ikhamanga in 2010, a South African honor.

Masekela passed away in January 2018 but, as the Google Doodle demonstrates, his bequest will live on for years and decades to come. And if the Doodle has you interested in learning more, is ensured to check out his 2004 autobiography, Still Grazing , and his lengthy discography which is available across streaming services, including Spotify.

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