5 Fast Facts About Hugh Masekela

Pius Utomi Expei, AFP/Getty Images
Pius Utomi Expei, AFP/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela, the “father of South African jazz,” has been honored with a Google Doodle on what would have been his 80th birthday today. The musician, singer, composer, and human rights advocate died of prostate cancer in January 2018, but his songs continue to live on around the world. Here are five facts you might not know about this jazz icon.

  1. Hugh Masekela played Louis Armstrong's old trumpet.

Masekela started playing the piano at age 6, but discovered his true calling as a teen. At 14, he decided to take up the trumpet after watching the 1950 film Young Man with a Horn, starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day. Three years later, Masekela ended up with Louis Armstrong’s old trumpet after the iconic musician heard about a youth band in South Africa in need of instruments. Masekela said the instrument made him feel as if he had a “spiritual connection” with jazz musicians in America.

  1. Hugh Masekela was part of the first all-black jazz band to record an album in South Africa.

Masekela and pianist Dollar Brand founded their band, The Jazz Epistles, in 1959. Together, they tore down barriers by recording an album, playing at white clubs, and organizing a national concert tour—all things that were unheard of at the time for black artists.

  1. Hugh Masekela was essentially exiled.

Masekela left South Africa at the age of 21 after his tour with The Jazz Epistles was canceled in the wake of the Sharpeville Massacre, which ushered in new laws prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. He studied music in England and then continued on to New York, where he enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music. Masekela planned to return to his home country after graduation, but was unable to do so because of the government's apartheid policies. “By then [Nelson] Mandela had been sentenced to life imprisonment,” Masekela told CNN in 2009. “So I stayed 26 years longer than I planned to."

  1. In 1968, one of Hugh Masekela's songs climbed to the top of U.S. pop charts.

Masekela’s single "Grazing in the Grass" was the number one Billboard song in 1968. At one point, his song was more popular than “Hello, I Love You” by The Doors, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by Mama Cass, and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones.

  1. Hugh Masekela's music was the soundtrack to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

In 1987, Masekela performed a protest song he wrote titled “Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela).” The opening lines are: “Bring back Nelson Mandela, bring him back home to Soweto. We want to see him walking down the streets of South Africa, tomorrow.” His wish came true—albeit three years later—when Mandela was finally released from prison, and later elected president.

Celebrate the Holidays With the 2020 Harry Potter Funko Pop Advent Calendar

Funko
Funko

Though the main book series and movie franchise are long over, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter remains in the spotlight as one of the most popular properties in pop-culture. The folks at Funko definitely know this, and every year the company releases a new Advent calendar based on the popular series so fans can count down to the holidays with their favorite characters.

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Right now, you can pre-order the 2020 edition of Funko's popular Harry Potter Advent calendar, and if you do it through Amazon, you'll even get it on sale for 33 percent off, bringing the price down from $60 to just $40.

Funko Pop!/Amazon

Over the course of the holiday season, the Advent calendar allows you to count down the days until Christmas, starting on December 1, by opening one of the tiny, numbered doors on the appropriate day. Each door is filled with a surprise Pocket Pop! figurine—but outside of the trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron, the company isn't revealing who you'll be getting just yet.

Calendars will start shipping on October 15, but if you want a head start, go to Amazon to pre-order yours at a discount.

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50 Years of Monday Night Football's Memorable Theme Music

iStock
iStock

Monday Night Football turns 50 years old today—notably on a Monday! And as the Raiders and Saints warm up for tonight's kickoff, fans will know it's game time when they hear four distinct, descending notes. But it wasn't always that way. The biggest game of the week has been soundtracked by a handful of theme songs, starting back on September 21, 1970.

When Monday Night Football premiered on ABC, it was accompanied by the thoroughly groovy, Hammond organ-heavy “Score” by Charles Fox. The composer had previously written the theme for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and he would later make a name for himself doing the theme songs for Happy Days and The Love Boat, as well as composing Roberta Flack’s Grammy-winning “Killing Me Softly with His Song.”

“No network had ever programmed a regular sporting event in the evening in prime time,” Fox wrote in his autobiography, and though no one could know what a juggernaut the show would become, he set about writing a funky soul-jazz tune. The song was released under the alias “Bob’s Band”—presumably because Fox was employed at the time by Bob Israel’s Score Productions, a music company specializing in theme songs and background music.

Fox retained its rights over that song, but the show moved on to a new opener after a few years. “Monday Night Football is still on the air, but my theme was replaced after seven years by someone named … Bob Israel,” Fox wrote of his former boss. Well, almost. First, there was a version simply called “ABC – Monday Night Football Theme” that aired from 1976 to 1981. Then in 1982, Israel’s Score Productions was brought in to update that song. The three composers of the 1976 piece unsuccessfully sued for copyright infringement.

Then, in 1989, Johnny Pearson’s “Heavy Action” rang in a new era of watching live sports from the comfort of your La-Z-Boy. Though the company had retained the rights to the song a decade previously, they used it primarily as background music and didn't make it an official theme until '89. The first four notes of the British composer’s opener became synonymous with American football, and the song is likely one of the most widely and easily recognized themes in television history.

Also in 1989, country star Hank Williams Jr. reworked his earlier hit "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" into a bar-room blues rocker that spoke of "turning on [his] TV for some pigskin fun." The song was a huge success and ran in various forms on the program for over 20 years. Williams enthusiastically growling "Are you ready for some football?" became as identifiable to the show as the opening notes of "Heavy Action."

Unfortunately, in 2011, Monday Night Football (which in 2006 moved from ABC to ESPN) dropped Williams' theme after he made controversial statements about President Barack Obama on Fox News. The network reverted to featuring "Heavy Action" most prominently, and in 2015 they reworked the theme yet again. That intro, which ran before each of the season's games, featured archive videos and computer generated players to highlight some of the greatest plays and playmakers in the history of the broadcast.

In 2017, Hank Williams Jr. and all his "Rowdy Friends" made their way back to the top of the football broadcast, but they've been replaced again in 2020 for Monday Night Football's 50th anniversary season with a cover of Little Richard's "Rip It Up," courtesy of Butcher Brown.

Yeah, we're definitely ready for some football.