Jamaican reggae legend ‘Toots’ Hibbert dies at 77

Jamaican reggae legend Nathaniel ‘Toots’ Hibbert.
Karl Simpson

Jamaican reggae legend Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert, the frontman of reggae and ska band Toots & the Maytals, died at the University Hospital of the West Indies in the parish of St. Andrew on Sept. 11. He was 77.

Hibbert “passed away peacefully” surrounded by his family, the group said. 

“As yet, it is unknown how Hibbert died, although he had been tested for coronavirus and later put into a medically induced coma,” Caribbean National Weekly (CNW) reported. “The last medical update on his condition had come from Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, who said he was slowly making improvements and urged Jamaicans to donate blood to the singer.”

CNW said Hibbert was credited with popularizing reggae music and even naming the genre; his 1968 single “Do the Reggay” is the first song to use the term. 

In a statement, the band and Hibbert’s family thanked medical staff “for their care and diligence.” He is survived by his wife and seven of his eight children.

Hibbert’s death came just weeks before the release of “Got to Be Tough,” the band’s first full-length album in more than a decade. 

Grange mourned the singer on social media, calling the day of his death “a truly sad day.”

Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness said on Facebook, “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.'”

Holness said that, over the years, “Toots has added significant value to #BrandJamaica, and many of us will remember him as one of Jamaica’s best musical talents. I extend my deepest condolences to his family, loved ones and friends, and to the many people who loved and supported him and his music, both in Jamaica and around the world.”

Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness with ‘Toots’ Hibbert.Photo courtesy of Facebook

Rolling Stones’s Mick Jagger also paid tribute to Hibbert, calling the death of the Maytals singer “a great loss to the whole music world.”

“So sad to hear of Toots Hibbert’s passing,” Jagger wrote on social media. “When I first heard ‘Pressure Drop‘ that was a big moment.” 

The Rolling Stones singer added of Hibbert in a statement to Rolling Stone, “He was a great singer with a really powerful voice who influenced everyone in the early days of reggae. He was a great stage performer. So full of energy and vitality always giving a top-class performance that I was lucky enough to witness.” 

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