Toots Hibbert, beloved reggae star, dead at 77

By: AP | New York |

September 12, 2020 6:24:12 pm

A household assertion mentioned Hibbert died Friday at University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, surrounded by household. (Photo: Elias Funez/The Union through AP)

Toots Hibbert, one among reggae’s founders and most beloved stars who gave the music its title and later helped make it a global motion via such classics as “Pressure Drop,” “Monkey Man” and “Funky Kingston,” has died. He was 77.

Hibbert, frontman of Toots & the Maytals, had been in a medically-induced coma at a hospital in Kingston since earlier this month. He was admitted in intensive care after complaints of getting respiratory difficulties in accordance with his publicist. It was revealed in native media that the singer was awaiting outcomes from a COVID-19 check after exhibiting signs.

News of the five-time Grammy nominee’s ill-health got here simply weeks after his final identified efficiency, on a nationwide live-stream throughout Jamaica’s Emancipation and Independence celebrations in August.

A household assertion mentioned Hibbert died Friday at University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, surrounded by household.

Ziggy Marley, son of Bob Marley, tweeted in regards to the dying saying he spoke with Hibbert a number of weeks in the past and, “told him how much i loved him we laughed & shared our mutual respect,” including, “He was a father figure to me.”

A muscular ex-boxer, Hibbert was a bandleader, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and showman whose live shows generally ended with dozens of viewers members dancing with him on stage. He was additionally, within the opinion of many, reggae’s biggest singer, so deeply religious he may rework “Do re mi fa so la ti do” right into a hymn. His raspy tenor, uncommonly heat and tough, was likened to the voice of Otis Redding and made him extra accessible to American listeners than many reggae artists. Original songs reminiscent of “Funky Kingston” and “54-46 That’s My Number” had the emotion and name and response preparations identified to soul and gospel followers. Hibbert even recorded an album of American hits, “Toots In Memphis,” which got here out in 1988.

Never as immersed in politics as his buddy and nice modern Bob Marley, Hibbert did invoke heavenly justice in “Pressure Drop,” preach peace in “Revolution,” righteousness in “Bam Bam” and scorn his 1960s drug arrest and imprisonment in “54-46 That’s My Number.” He additionally captured, like few others, on a regular basis life in Jamaica within the years following its independence from Britain in 1962, whether or not telling of wedding ceremony jitters (“Sweet and Dandy”) or of attempting to pay the lease (“Time Tough”). One of his hottest and stunning songs was his transforming of John Denver’s nostalgic “(Take Me Home) Country Roads,” with the setting modified from West Virginia to a world Hibbert knew so effectively.

As with different reggae stars, Hibbert’s following soared after the discharge of the landmark 1972 movie, The Harder They Come, which starred Jimmy Cliff as a poor Jamaican who strikes to Kingston and desires of a profession in music. The Jamaican manufacturing was a phrase of mouth hit within the U.S. and the soundtrack, typically ranked among the many biggest in film historical past, included the Maytals’ “Pressure Drop” and “Sweet and Dandy.” Hibbert additionally appeared within the movie, as himself, recording “Sweet and Dandy” within the studio whereas Cliff’s character appears to be like on with awe. Around the identical time, the Maytals signed with Island Records and launched the acclaimed album “Funky Kingston,” which the critic Lester Bangs known as “the most exciting and diversified set of reggae tunes by a single artist yet released.” (The album would ultimately come out in two completely different variations).

By the mid-1970s, Keith Richards, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and numerous different rock stars had grow to be reggae followers and Hibbert would ultimately document with a few of them. A tribute album from 2004, the Grammy successful True Love, included cameos by Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Ryan Adams and Jeff Beck. Hibbert additionally was the topic of a 2011 BBC documentary, Reggae Got Soul, with Clapton, Richards and Willie Nelson among the many commentators.

A visitor look on Saturday Night Live in 2004 introduced Hibbert an sudden admirer, the present’s visitor host, Donald Trump, who in his e book Think Like a Billionaire recalled listening to the Maytals rehearse: “My daughter Ivanka had told me how great they were, and she was right. The music relaxed me, and surprisingly, I was not nervous.”

The Maytals initially have been a vocal trio that includes Hibbert, Henry “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Mathias, with the group later including such instrumentalists as bassist Jackie Jackson and drummer Paul Douglas. They broke up within the early 1980s, however the next decade Hibbert started working with a brand new lineup of Maytals.

Hibbert’s profession was halted in 2013 after he sustained a head damage from a vodka bottle thrown throughout a live performance in Richmond, Virginia, and suffered from complications and despair. But by the tip of the last decade he was performing once more and in 2020 he launched one other album, Got To Be Tough, which included contributions from Ziggy Marley and Ringo Starr, whose son, Zak Starkey, served as co-producer.

Grammy nominations for Hibbert included finest reggae album of 2012 for Reggae Got Soul and finest reggae album of 2007 for Light Your Light. Hibbert was ranked No. 71 on a Rolling Stone listing, compiled in 2008, of the 100 biggest modern singers. In 2012, he acquired the Order of Distinction by the federal government of Jamaica for excellent contribution to the nation’s music.

Married to his spouse, Doreen, for practically 40 years, Hibbert had eight kids, together with the reggae performers Junior Hibbert and Leba Hibbert.

Frederick Nathaniel Hibbert (“Toots” was a childhood nickname) was born in May Pen, Parish of Clarendon. He was the son of Seventh-day Adventist ministers and would keep in mind miles-long walks alongside dust roads to varsities, hours of singing in church and personal moments listening to such American stars on the radio as Ray Charles and Elvis Presley.

By adolescence, his mother and father had died and he had moved to Trench Town in Kingston, the place the native music scene was thriving, transferring from road events to recording studios and drawing such future stars as Bob Marley and Desmond Dekker. He shaped the Maytals, named for his hometown, with fellow singers Matthias and Gordon, began working with Jamaican document producer Coxsone Dodd and rapidly grew to become the star of the nationwide competition competitors that began in 1966. The Maytals (ultimately renamed Toots & the Maytals) received within the inaugural 12 months with “Bam Bam,” prevailed in 1969 with “Sweet and Dandy” and 1972 with “Pomp and Pride.” Hibbert would joke that he thought it finest to start out skipping the competition as a result of successful got here so simply, though he returned in 2020 with the intense, inspirational “Rise Up Jamaica.”

The Maytals started when ska was the preferred music, continued to rise throughout the transition to the slowed down rocksteady and have been at the very forefront of the sooner, extra danceable sound of the late ’60s. Their uptempo chant “Do the Reggay” is widely known because the track which gave reggae its title, even when the glory was unintended.

“If a girl didn’t look so nice or she wasn’t dressed properly, we used to say she was streggay. I was playing one day and I don’t know why but I started singing: ‘Do the reggay, do the reggay’ — it just stuck,” he instructed the Daily Star in 2012. “I might have stuck with calling it streggay if I’d thought longer. That’d be something — everyone dancing to streggay music.”

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