A Tribute to the Reggae Legend known as “Toots”.
Frederick Nathaniel Hibbert (1942-2020)
The reggae world lost a titan in the industry with the passing of Frederick Hibbert on September 11, 2020 at the age of 77. Toots & The Maytals took the music world by storm, beginning in the 60’s, popularizing the ska genre, a catalyst to reggae music. It was Toots & The Maytals who helped put the word “reggae” on the map, referring to it on their 1968 hit song “Do the Reggay.” “54-46 Was My Number,” “Country Road,” “Pressure Drop,” and “Funky Kingston” were just a few of the group’s timeless hits.
Toots & The Maytals hit the Billboard 200 albums chart twice in the ‘70s, with the U.S. version of their “Funky Kingston” LP in 1975 (No. 164) and with “Reggae Got Soul” in 1976 (No. 157), according to Billboard.com.
The soundtrack for the iconic film “The Harder They Come” featured two of the group’s songs, “Pressure Drop” and “Sweet and Dandy.” To this day, there are differing stories, including from Hibbert himself, over the inspiration for his hit song “54-46 Was My Number.” Was it Hibbert’s actual prison number from his time in lockup for a marijuana possession charge or did he make the prison number up? He said as much in a 2018 interview with The Arts Fuse.
The Grammy winner enjoyed a successful solo touring career in the 80’s, but continued on with The Maytals until his final days in September. The band released a new album, their first in a decade, “Got to Be Tough” on August 28, a few weeks before his passing.
His band Toots and The Maytals announced the huge loss in a statement on September 12. Hibbert “passed away peacefully” in Kingston, Jamaica “surrounded by his family” at the University Hospital of the West Indies, the Twitter statement said.
The band’s post also said Mr. Hibbert is survived by his wife of 39 years, Doreen Hibbert, and seven of his eight children. “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.”
While the cause of his death has not been disclosed, the band said on September 3 that Hibbert had been taken to intensive care and was waiting on coronavirus test results.
Several legendary recording artists paid tribute to Toots, including Jimmy Cliff, Buju Banton, Shaggy, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ziggy Marley, who spoke with Hibbert just a few weeks before he died. Marley, the son of the late Reggae icon, Bob Marley, posted on his Twitter page that Toots “was a father figure to me.”
A storied career, spanning more than half a century, the legend has been described as living through all the generations of Jamaican music. Toots’ renowned vocals, high-energy performances and lyrical genius will live on in the heart and soul of the global force that is Reggae music. Rest in Power “Toots.”