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Toots Hibbert (1942 – 2020), reggae giant who led the Maytals

by Linnea Crowther

Toots Hibbert was the lead singer and primary songwriter for Toots and the Maytals, one of Jamaica’s most foundational reggae and ska bands.

A father of reggae

Hibbert, born Frederick Nathaniel Hibbert, was the first singer to use the word “reggae” in a recording. The 1968 Maytals song “Do the Reggay” introduced the term to the world, and it stuck. At the time, Hibbert had been leading the Maytals for seven years and was already gaining attention in his native Jamaica with singles including “Bam Bam” and “54-46, That’s My Number.” Toots and the Maytals would break through to an international audience with their 1970 U.K. hit “Monkey Man” and receive more notice with the release on the 1971 film “The Harder They Come.” The Jamaican crime film is credited with introducing reggae to the world, and the soundtrack included “Sweet and Dandy” and “Pressure Drop” by the Maytals. After the original Maytals disbanded in 1981, Hibbert continued on a solo career, releasing albums including 1988’s “Toots in Memphis.”

Notable quote

“A hundred years from now, my songs will be played, because it is logical words that people can relate to.” —from a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone

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Tributes to Toots Hibbert

Full obituary: The New York Times

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