Sept 11, 2020: Reggae Pioneer ‘Toots’ Hibbert Dies

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Toots Hibbert

Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, the founder and longtime leader of Toots and the Maytals, one of the most significant groups in the history of reggae music, died September 11, 2020. Hibbert, who was 77, had been in the intensive care unit of a Kingston, Jamaica, hospital since August, suffering from Covid-19.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts to announce that Frederick Nathaniel ‘Toots’ Hibbert passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica,” said his family in a statement. “The family and his management team would like to thank the medical teams and professionals for their care and diligence, and ask that you respect their privacy during their time of grief. Mr. Hibbert is survived by his wife of 39 years, Miss D, and his seven of eight children.” Our brief obituary of “Toots” Hibbert follows…

Toots and the Maytals were formed in the early 1960s during the rocksteady and ska period of Jamaican music, with Hibbert as frontman. The singer, who was born Dec. 8, 1942, in May Pen, Jamaica,  gave reggae music its name with the release of a 1968 single titled “Do the Reggay.” (The spelling was soon changed.)

The group’s best known songs include “Pressure Drop” (covered by the Clash), “Monkey Man” (covered by the Specials), “Pomp and Pride” and “Sweet and Dandy.” A prison experience, for possession of marijuana, gave Hibbert another hit song, “54-46 Was My Number,” about his incarceration. Other notable Toots and the Maytals hits included the group’s reworking of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” as well as reggae staples such as “Funky Kingston” and “Reggae Got Soul.”

[Hibbert’s death fell on the anniversary of the murder of fellow reggae star, Peter Tosh.]

The group won its only Grammy for 2004’s True Love album, which found Hibbert reworking catalog tunes with such fans as Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Phish’s Trey Anastasio, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards and Ben Harper.

Ziggy Marley tweeted a tribute to Hibbert.

The original Maytals, a trio, appeared in the groundbreaking 1972 film The Harder They Come, which helped launch reggae music around the world.

Hibbert previously underwent three years of extensive physical rehabilitation after an incident in May 2013 in Richmond, VA, when a glass liquor bottle was thrown from the audience and struck him in the forehead during a performance, severely injuring the singer.

Toots and the Maytals had released a new album, Got to Be Tough, in August 2020, their first in a decade.

Watch an animated video of “Got to Be Tough,” the title track from Toots and the Maytals’ 2020 album

Related: Our Album Rewind of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Live

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