Toots Hibbert, Reggae’s Soulful Forefather, is Dead at 77

zo Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers…
Toots Hibbert, Reggae's Soulful Forefather, is Dead at 77
(Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

Hibbert’s group, Toots and The Maytals, pioneered the genre with a string of politically-charged hits throughout the late-60s and 70s.

Toots Hibbert, the charismatic frontman of Toots and The Maytals, has died. He was 77-years-old. Hibbert’s death was announced late Friday night in a round of social media posts from the band’s accounts. However, the cause of death was not specified.

The pioneering songwriter, born Frederick Nathaniel Hibbert in May Pen, Jamaica, is widely credited with naming a genre. His 1968 single with The Maytalls, “Do the Reggay,” coined the term and extended it to virtually all subsequent releases recorded on the island. According to The New York Times, it was a miraculous slip-up. Hibbert had intended to utter “streggae,” but it came out askew and was almost immediately embraced as the broader branding for a new Caribbean sound.

A soulful singer with a muscular tone, Hibbert’s songs were at once catchy and deceptively poignant, lending them to dance floors and political rallies with equal impact. “54-46, That’s My Number” chronicles his arrest on a cannabis charge and a subsequent year-long stint in jail over a buoyant groove. Other standouts from his catalog include “Bam Bam,” which was initially released in 1966 but offered a new life in an iconic interpolation from Sister Nancy, and many more through hip-hop’s sampling tradition. Hibbert was also featured in the hit 1972 film, The Harder They Come, which starred Jimmy Cliff in a role that loosely mirrored the life of the Maytals singer.

Per the band’s post (see below,) Hibbert is survived by his wife of 39 years, Miss D, and seven of his eight children. A memorial service has yet to be announced. Stay tuned for updates on the funeral proceedings in the days ahead.

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