Grazing in the Grass

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"Grazing in the Grass"
Single by Hugh Masekela
from the album The Promise of a Future
B-side"Bajabula Bonke (Healing Song)"
ReleasedMay 1968
RecordedMarch 12, 1968
LabelUni (55066)
Songwriter(s)Philemon Hou
Producer(s)Stewart Levine
Hugh Masekela singles chronology
"There Are Seeds to Sow"
"Grazing in the Grass"
"Puffin' on Down the Track"

"Grazing in the Grass" is an instrumental composed by Philemon Hou and first recorded by the South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Released in the United States as a single in 1968, it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart,[1] ranking it as the 18th biggest hit of the year.[2] The song also reached #15 Adult Contemporary.[3] Masekela included the song in his albums Grazing in the Grass: The Best of Hugh Masekela (2001), Still Grazing (2004), and Live at the Market Theatre (2006).

Masekela’s recording of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.[4]

A vocal version of the song by The Friends of Distinction, with lyrics by band member Harry Elston, was a US chart hit in 1969. The song has been recorded by many other musicians.

Hugh Masekela recording[edit]

"Grazing in the Grass" was inspired by an earlier novelty recording, "Mr. Bull Dog No. 5", which Masekela had heard in Zambia, that started with a cowbell. When Masekela was recording his debut album, the running order was short by three minutes and his record company suggested he record the tune. Philemon Hou, an actor and singer who was present in the studio, came up with a new melody while the backing track was already being recorded.[5] The session was held at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood.[6]



Chart (1968) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 1

The Friends of Distinction version[edit]

"Grazing in the Grass"
Grazing in the Grass - The Friends of Distinction.jpg
Single by The Friends of Distinction
from the album Grazin'
B-side"I Really Hope You Do"
ReleasedMarch 1969
LabelRCA Victor
  • Philemon Hou
  • Harry Elston
Producer(s)John Florez
The Friends of Distinction singles chronology
"Grazing in the Grass"
"Going in Circles"

The Friends of Distinction recorded a vocal cover version of the tune in 1969 on RCA Victor, which was also a Top Ten pop and R&B hit, reaching no. 3 on the former and no. 5 on the latter.[8] One of the group's members, Harry Elston, wrote lyrics for the song and sang lead on the Friends Of Distinction's version of it.


Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1969) Peak
Canada RPM Top Singles[9] 5
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[10] 3
U.S. Billboard Hot Soul/R&B Singles[11] 5
U.S. Cash Box Top 100[12] 6

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1969) Rank
Canada[13] 62
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[14] 17
U.S. R&B (Billboard)[11] 42
U.S. Cash Box Top 100[15] 59

Other cover versions[edit]

"Grazing in the Grass" has been recorded by many other musicians, including Stevie Wonder (on his 1968 album Eivets Rednow), The Ventures (on their 1968 album The Horse),[16] Chet Atkins, Galapagos Duck, Boney James, Rick Braun, Larry Harlow, Willie Mitchell, The Monitors, The Scofflaws, cc: DIVA, Meco, and Dexys.

In 2004, the song was covered by Raven-Symoné; her version was played on Radio Disney, but it never received a general commercial release as a single for airplay in other venues. The music video for her version features her and dancing extras interacting with scenes from The Lion King 1½, the video also received frequent airplay on Disney Channel, as well as MTV and BET.

"Grazing in the Grass" was sampled by the hip hop duo Nice & Smooth on the track "One, Two and One More Makes Three" from their album Ain't a Damn Thing Changed.

A sample of the song can be heard in Sugar Ray's 1999 single "Every Morning," from its album 14:59.

The jazz saxophonist George Howard did an upbeat version of "Grazing in the Grass" on his album When Summer Comes in 1993.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The song has been included in numerous movie soundtracks including: Battle of the Sexes (2017), Talk to Me (2007), Bobby (2006), The Last King of Scotland (2006), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), The Lion King 1½ (2004), Space Cowboys (2000), Jackie Brown (1997) and I Shot Andy Warhol (1996).
  • In the 1988 film I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, The Friends of Distinction's version plays on a car stereo in a scene featuring Isaac Hayes singing along—but off-key, for comic effect—to annoy his passenger, played by Jim Brown. Brown had actually discovered The Friends of Distinction, leading to their signing with RCA Records and the release of "Grazing in the Grass" as their first single.
  • Hugh Masekela's 2004 autobiography, which he dictated to journalist D. Michael Cheers, is titled Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela[17]
  • In 2018, the song was included in an episode of Family Guy with The Friends of Distinction as themselves through an archival recording.


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 380.
  2. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1968/Top 100 Songs of 1968". Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 154.
  4. ^ "Meet The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Class Of 2018". Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  5. ^ Eric Berman, "The Friends Of Distinction: Grazing In The Grass & Going In Circles",, October 31, 2017
  6. ^ Bronson, Fred; Adam White (1993). The Billboard Book of Number One Rhythm & Blues Hits. Billboard Books. p. 49.
  7. ^ Payne, Douglas. "Hugh Masekela Discography 1955-1969". Retrieved August 12, 2009.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 215.
  9. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top 40 Hits: 1955-2009. Record Research. p. 256.
  11. ^ a b "1969: The Top 100 Soul/R&B Singles". Rate Your Music. Archived from the original on 2016-11-12. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  12. ^ "Top 100 1969-06-21". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 2016-07-24.
  13. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  14. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1969/Top 100 Songs of 1969". Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  15. ^ "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1969". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  16. ^ "The Horse - The Ventures - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  17. ^ Masekela, Hugh, as told to Cheers, D. Michael, Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela Crown Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-609-60957-2.