Toots Hibbert, classic of Jamaican music, dies

Toots Hibbert, classic of Jamaican music, dies

He was one of the pioneers in the journey from ska to reggae and in the exploration of soul from the music of the island.

Toots Hibbert, classic of Jamaican music, dies

The coronavirus has also taken away Toots Hibbert, the booming voice of Toots & The Maytals , one of the most legendary formations in Jamaican music, which transitioned from ska to reggae, also embracing the most danceable soul with peaks like the monumental Funky Kingston . Although he was still active – this same year he released the album Got to be tough -, the 77-year-old singer, who was diagnosed with coronavirus at the beginning of the month, lived his period of greatest creative glory in the 60s and 70s. , the most effervescent on the small island that concentrates the largest number of musical talents per square meter.

In the early 1960s, Frederick Toots Hibbert formed, along with Nathaniel Jerry Matthias and Henry Raleigh Gordon, one of the many vocal trios that proliferated throughout Jamaica. They were then simply called The Maytals, after May Pen, the town where Toots was born. In 1962, they began recording hits for Coxsone Dodd, owner of the legendary Studio One, the island's leading producer, who printed his label on countless key records until the 1980s. The first hit for Studio One was Hallelujah, a song. of spiritual roots inspired by her years of vocal training at May Pen Baptist Church .

But Dodd, as usual, paid them a pittance, and the trio undertook a tour of many of the island's labels and producers, which at that time, thanks to the ska boom , were already very many. For Prince Buster, a former Dodd employee who had become his greatest rival, they recorded the devastating and vengeful Dog war, as well as Domino, about Jamaican national sport, among others. From there they jumped on the Byron Lee label with the single Daddy / It's you, and ended up winning the 1966 Jamaica Song Festival with the immortal Bam bam , whose bass line has been the basis for countless versions.

That same year, in 1966, Toots was jailed for possession of marijuana , an experience that he also turned into a hit with 54-46 That's my number . Upon his release from prison, he began his period of greatest artistic and financial recognition, with songs like Do the reggay -so written-, one of the first to use the word reggae, which became fashionable when the rhythm of ska was already it had started to slow down with rock steady, the style that preceded reggae ; Monkey man , with which they climbed positions in the British charts, or Sweet and Dandy , with which they won the song festival again, where they were the kings.

The trio sang Pressure drop, another of their most thrilling and humming titles, in Caiga que caiga , a cult film filmed by Perry Henzell and starring Jimmy Cliff , which showed the relentless operation of the Jamaican music industry. Cliff came to Kingston wanting to eat the world to the tune of You Can't Get If You Really Want , and he ended up becoming Public Enemy Number 1 . Among the many cameos in the industry were of course, in addition to Prince Buster, the Maytals, who were already the most popular trio on the island.

Chris Blackwell, the producer who made Bob Marley a planetary star, was the one who changed their name to Toots & the Maytals, and signed them for his Island label, where they recorded the LP Reggae Got Soul , their best-selling album. Blackwell is said to have hired Marley, who also began his career as a vocal trio, in hopes of being able to stay with the Maytals, his true goal. Thanks to the revival ska spearheaded by the white bands of the Two-Tone label in England in the late 70s, and thus in the rest of the world, Toots & the Maytals became international stars.

Blackwell realized that Toots was the Jamaican equivalent of Otis Redding , a certainty that led him to record Toots in Memphis, an album in which both American musicians -Teenie Hodges, guitarist of Al Green- as well as the very Jamaican Sly & Robbie played. , embroidering versions of Redding such as Hard to handle , which became a fixture in his repertoire.

Their concerts were an absolute waste of energy. Funky Kingston, Pomp and pride or their versions of Louie Louie or Take me home country roads , among many others, drove fans and strangers alike. It was impossible to resist. In 1980, they packed London's Hammersmith Palais, and within 24 hours the concert record was in stores, mastered, pressed and ready to rekindle the fever of the night before. Until well into the millennium they continued to fill theaters, again and again leading the audience to the most absolute ecstasy. Impossible to forget it.

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