Toots Hibbert, reggae superstar, dies at 77

Tributes pour in for the frontman of the legendary Jamaican band, Toots and the Maytals.

Frederick ''Toots'' Hibbert
Hibbert was one of Jamaica's most influential musicians [File: Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP]

Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, the frontman of the legendary Jamaican reggae and ska band Toots and the Maytals, has died at the age of 77.

One of reggae’s all-time greats, Hibbert was known for his passionate, exuberant vocals that struck a chord with music lovers worldwide.

“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,” his family said in a statement late on Friday

“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,” the statement added.

The cause of death was not disclosed, but the artist was hospitalised last month after showing symptoms related to coronavirus. 

According to reports, he was placed in a medically-induced coma as the singer was “fighting for his life”.

Hibbert’s death came weeks after the singer announced the release of a new single and album, titled Got to be Tough.

The singer was recognised as one of Jamaica’s most influential musicians, who helped bring the term “reggae” to the international spotlight with his popular song Do the Reggay.

Other beloved songs include Pressure Drop, Funky Kingston and 54-46, That’s My Number, an account of Higgert’s time in jail on a cannabis charge that is considered to be one of reggae’s greatest songs. 

Born on December, 8, 1942 in May Pen to a business-owner father and nurse mother, Hibbert began his musical life as a child in the church choir.

At the age of 16, he moved to Jamaica’s capital, Kingston. There, he went on to form in 1962 the Maytals which quickly became the country’s top music group. 

In 1982, Hibbert became a solo artist before putting together a new lineup of Toots and the Maytals in the early 1990s.

“A hundred years from now, my songs will be played, because it is logical words that people can relate to,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 2010. 

The news of his death prompted an outpouring of grief on social media.

“I spoke with him a few weeks ago [and] told him how much I loved him we laughed & shared our mutual respect,” Ziggy Marley, a musician and son of reggae icon Bob Marley, wrote on Twitter in a tribute to Hibbert.

“He was a father figure to me his spirit is with us his music fills us with his energy I will never forget him,” he added. 

British comedian Lenny Henry described his music “as constant in our house”.

Hibbert is survived by his wife of 39 years and seven of his eight children.

Source: Al Jazeera