Toots Hibbert death: Toots and the Maytals frontman dies, aged 77

Jamaican singer had been hospitalised for suspected Covid-19

Jacob Stolworthy
Saturday 12 September 2020 14:29
Toots And The Maytals frontman dies aged 77

Toots Hibbert, the frontman of reggae group the Maytals, had died, aged 77.

The Jamaican singer "passed away peacefully" on 11 September "surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica", his family announced.

In a statement, his family and management team thanked "the medical teams and professionals for their care and diligence and [asked] that you respect their privacy during their time of grief".

His cause of death is currently unknown, but Hibbert was hospitalised for suspected Covid-19 on 2 September. The results of his tests were unannounced.

Hibbert – real name Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert – was raised by strict Seventh-day Adventist preachers in the southern Jamaican town of May Pen, from which the Maytals would eventually take their name.

He formed the ska harmony band with Jerry Matthius and Raleigh Gordon and, in 1962,  they recorded their first album.

It wasn't until 1969 that the band would score their first international hit with "54-46 Was My Number", a song inspired by Hibbert’s year in prison after being wrongfully arrested for cannabis possession.

Speaking to The Independent in one of his final interviews just last month, Hibbert said: “I didn’t even smoke back then. People told untruths about me. I didn’t have no weed. People try to do things when you’re getting on top."

In 1972, Hibbert starred in The Harder They Come alongside Jimmy Cliff, a film which saw the Maytals become globally recognised. 

Toots and the Maytals, 1982

That same year, under the new name of Toots and the Maytals, they released Funky Kingston, which was produced by Chris Blackwell, the same man behind Bob Marley's classic Catch a Fire.

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The former featured a recording of "Redemption Song", a song which would later appear on Marley's final album, Uprising.

Earlier this month, Toots released Got To Be Tough, his first new record in a decade. The Independent described it as "a joy" and "a riotous platter of not just reggae but also R&B, funk and soul that showcases [his] impressive range"

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

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