As I was listening to Lou Simon on Sirius radio Saturday, I learned about the history of a song that I always liked growing up. It was Hugh Masekela’s ‘Grazing in the Grass’.
As Lou told it, Masekela, a jazz trumpeter from South Africa, turned in his latest album effort to his record company. They came back to him with an order for several more minutes of music. The 28 minutes he had recorded was two minutes less than his contract stipulated. So Hugh and the band called Gold Star Studio on Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood and booked the studio for only an hour because they did not intend to spend a great deal of time or effort solving this problem. They just got together and decided to jam a rift from an earlier song, record the impromptu session, and then they gave it to the record company to fulfill their obligation.
Here’s where the fun began. The record executives said that it was the best song in the entire collection and that they were not only going to release it as a jazz song but release it to the top 40 stations nationwide. 39 years ago this month (July, 1968) ‘Grazing in the Grass’ spent two weeks at the top of Billboards Top 100. That’s an incredible ride for a non-rock musician’s quicky instrumental jam session. The following year, The Friends of a Distinction took the song to number three with a vocal version (Grazing in the grass is a gas, baby can you dig it?)
The lesson to be gleaned is that sometimes one’s grandest efforts fall short and something ‘small’ but heartfelt actually succeeds. We see this often at the funeral home. Sometimes the simplest things done by visitors for a family leave the greatest mark. Maybe it was just a hug because the words you wanted to say just couldn’t get choked out ( and let’s face it, no one has come up with anything yet to say to a grieving family that makes them feel better). Maybe it’s telling a story the family didn’t know before. Maybe it’s bringing a random picture from long ago the family has never seen. If you are a neighbor, you can offer to watch the house or check on the pets while they are away. And something we saw twice this week when two young Cub fans died unexpectedly, the simple act of wearing a Cubs shirt gave that life significance and was noted by the family.
We can learn a lot from Hugh Masekela. Just do something! Put just a little effort into it and let things take care of themselves. If you know someone who has experienced a loss, especially something tragic like a child or a suicide, just show up and give a hug. Bring your inner Hugh Masekela to the event and then don’t worry about it. Just doing something may result in something beyond your imagination.