Toots Hibbert, One Of Reggae’s Founders, The Person Who Gave Reggae Its Name Has Died At 77

Reggae Legend Says He's Broke and Depressed After Richmond Injury | News and Features | Style Weekly - Richmond, VA local news, arts, and events.The man who gave reggae its name and helped make it an international movement, Toots Hibbert, born Frederick Nathaniel Hibbert, has died at age 77.

Hibbert, one of the genre’s founders and most beloved stars, was known for classics including “Pressure Drop,” “Monkey Man” and “Funky Kingston.” He claimed to have named reggae on his song “Do The Reggay,” which was released in 1968, according to the BBC.

The frontman of Toots & the Maytals, whose nickname “Toots” came from childhood, 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 having breathing difficulties according to his publicist. It was revealed in local media that the singer was awaiting results from a COVID-19 test after showing symptoms.

Toots introduces grandson King Trevy with 'Ten Shillings' | Loop NewsThe Maytals started out as a trio made up of Hibbert, Henry “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Mathias. Later on, they added instrumentalists including bassist Jackie Jackson and drummer Paul Douglas. They broke up in the early 1980s, but the following decade Hibbert began working with a new lineup of Maytals.

The group posted a statement on Instagram and Twitter announcing his death.

“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,” Toots & the Maytals wrote. “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.”

They shared that Hibbert is survived by seven of his eight children and his wife, “Miss D,” named Doreen, to whom he was married for nearly 40 years. Two of his children, Junior Hibebrt and Leba Hibbert, are also reggae performers.

The five-time Grammy nominee fell ill following his last known performance in August which was performed on a live-stream during Jamaica’s Emancipation and Independence celebrations.

Hibbert was born the youngest of seven children in May Pen, which is situated about 30 miles from Jamaica’s capital, according to the BBC.

He was the son of Seventh-day Adventist ministers and would remember miles-long walks along dirt roads to schools, hours of singing in church and private moments listening to such American stars on the radio as Ray Charles and Elvis Presley.

An ex-boxer, Hibbert was a bandleader, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and showman whose concerts sometimes ended with dozens of audience members dancing with him on stage.

He was also, in the opinion of many, reggae’s greatest singer, so deeply spiritual he could transform “Do re mi fa so la ti do” into a hymn. His raspy tenor, uncommonly warm and rough, was likened to the voice of Otis Redding and made him more accessible to American listeners than many reggae artists. Hibbert also recorded an album of hits, “Toots In Memphis,” which featured tracks such as “Hard to Handle” and  “Knock on Wood” came out in 1988.

While he was not as involved politically as his friend, the late Bob Marley, he did preach justice, peace and righteousness in some songs, including “Pressure Drop,” “Revolution” and “Bam Bam.” He also reflected on his personal life in some of his music including on “54-46 That’s My Number” which was about his drug arrest and imprisonment that nearly derailed his career in the 1960s, according to the Independent.

Hibbert worked with musicians including Keith Richards, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and other rock stars who had become reggae fans in the 1970s. A tribute album from 2004, the Grammy winning “True Love,” included cameos by Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Ryan Adams and Jeff Beck. Hibbert also was the subject of a 2011 BBC documentary, “Reggae Got Soul,” with Clapton, Richards and Willie Nelson among the commentators.

A guest appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 2004 brought Hibbert an unexpected admirer, the show’s guest host, Donald Trump, who in his book “Think Like a Billionaire” recalled hearing 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.”

Hibbert’s career was halted in 2013 after he sustained a head injury from a vodka bottle thrown during a concert in Richmond, Virginia, and suffered from headaches and depression. But by the end of the decade he was performing again and in 2020 he released another album, “Got To Be Tough,” which included contributions from Ziggy Marley and Ringo Starr, whose son, Zak Starkey, served as co-producer. The album illustrated the musician’s “indomitable spirit” according to Pitchfork’s review.

Toots introduces grandson King Trevy with 'Ten Shillings' | Loop NewsLoved ones, fans and colleagues took to social media to pay their respects.

Ziggy Marley, son of Bob Marley, tweeted about Hibbert’s death noting he spoke with Hibbert recently.

“i told him how much i loved him we laughed & shared our mutual respect,” Marley wrote. “He was a father figure to me his spirit is w/us his music fills us w/his energy i will never forget him.”

Trojan Records, which released some of Toots and the Maytals’ earlier work, also took to Twitter to share their reflections.

“Trojan mourns the passing of legendary reggae icon Toots Hibbert, frontman of the groundbreaking reggae and ska group Toots & The Maytals,” the company wrote. “Our condolences to all his family, friends, and loved ones.”

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness tweeted out a photo of Hibbert and himself.

“Today I mourn with all Jamaicans as we woke to news of the passing of our very own legendary Reggae singer Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert from the iconic band, ‘Toots and the Maytals,'” he wrote.

British artist Cat Stevens tweeted too writing he was sad about the musician’s passing, with an image of Hibbert. “God bless his soul.”

Source: Toots Hibbert, one of reggae’s founders, has died at 77

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