Photo by Frennie Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela died Tuesday, January 23rd in a Johannesburg hospital after a long battle with prostate cancer.

On Twitter the Masekela family wrote: “A loving father, brother, grandfather and friend, our hearts beat with profound loss … 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 and we are blessed and grateful to be part of a life and ever-expanding legacy of love, sharing and vanguard creativity that spans the time and space of six decades.”


According to Rolling Stone, Masekela’s son, TV host Selema “Sal” Masekela shared a statement in which he remembered his father’s passion for music and fighting social injustice. Sal Masekela recalled being only five years old when he began accompanying his father to performances at famed jazz clubs in New York City. “He would steal the hearts and souls of innocents with a musical storytelling all his own, passionately and relentlessly transporting them to the farthest reaches of Africa with both voice and trumpet. It was these moments and his choosing to take me around the globe any chance he got, that would come to shape my entire worldview.”

Hugh Masekela was born in Witbank, South Africa April 4th, 1939. He began playing the trumpet at age 14 after receiving a horn from the South African bishop and activist Father Trevor Huddleston. As a young trumpeter, Masekela played with various groups around South Africa until the violence and oppression of the apartheid regime eventually drove him to London, and then New York in 1960.

In New York City he studied classical trumpet and immersed himself in the jazz scene of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and more. Masekela learned from trumpet greats including Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, who pushed him to embrace his African influences.

He is most widely known for hit #1 hit “Grazing In The Grass.” See him perform it below.

Watch Hugh Masekela in concert below.

TELL US: What’s your favorite song by Masekela?

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