Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, Founding Father of Reggae, Dead at 77

Frederick Toots Hibbert

Getty Frederick "Toots" Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals performs on the Coachella Stage during Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival at Empire Polo Club on April 16, 2017 in Indio, California.

Frederick Nathaniel Hibbert, better known as “Toots” of Toots and the Maytals died Friday evening in Kingston, Jamaica. According to Rolling Stone, Hibbert was admitted to the hospital last month with COVID-19 symptoms, but it’s not yet confirmed if that was the cause of his death.

While in the hospital Hibbert was put in a medically-induced coma, Rolling Stone reported.

The 77-year-old Reggae legend died in the hospital surrounded by his family, who issued a statement on the Toots and the Maytals Facebook Page:

It is with the heaviest of hearts to announce that Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.

The family and his management team would like to thank the medical teams and professionals for their care and diligence, and ask that you respect their privacy during their time of grief. Mr. Hibbert is survived by his wife of 39 years, Miss D, and his seven of eight children.

Ziggy Marley Called Hibbert a ‘Father Figure’ & Said ‘His Spirit Is With Us — His Music Fills Us With His Energy

Hibbert is considered one of the founding fathers of Reggae, even credited for coining the term that describes an entire genre of music with his song, ‘Do The Reggay’, released in 1968. But Hibbert had been a figure on the ska and rocksteady scene since 1962, according to the website, Jamaicans. That’s when he met members of the Maytals, and along with the addition of a couple of other members and Hibbert taking the role of frontman, “Toots and the Maytals” was effectively born.

After a few years of recording and playing around Jamaica, Toots was arrested for marijuana possession and sentenced to 18-months in prison in 1966. That experience inspired one of their most well-known songs,54-46 Was my Number”

That hit was accompanied by others in the late 60s and early 70s, including “Pressure Drop,” and “Monkey Man.” Toots and the Maytals were contemporaries of Bob Marley and the Wailers, both as individuals and together as bands — all coming up as rising music stars whose soulful, uptempo songs started spilling over from the Island to international fame.

Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert

Getty7th May 1981: Jamaican reggae and ska group Toots And The Maytals performing on the first of 17 hot nights of jazz, reggae and salsa on the menu at the 15th Montreux Jazz Festival.

Then in about 1978-80 the band had a resurgence of popularity among new fans when reggae-punk and ska enjoyed a rebirth in the U.K, according to Reggaeville.

The Specials recorded “Monkey Man” on their 1979 debut album. In 1980 The Clash covered “Pressure Drop” on their album Super Black Market Crash. Later in the 1990s Sublime made “54-56 Was my Number” popular among Gen-Xers in the U.S.

Reggaeville reports that Toots and the Maytals took a leave from the band in the early 1980s but after about a decade the band got back together. They toured and started writing and recording more music. The band just released their last album on August 28 this year, called Got to be Tough.

Toots told Rolling Stone in an article published on Aug. 31, “This is my last chance, man. I gotta do this now. Every day I’m getting older. But I still have my strength, so now it’s time.”

The band was nominated for five Grammy’s and won Best Reggae Album in 2004 for their record, True Love.

Hibbert Was Still Married to his Childhood Sweetheart, Doreen

Hibbert was born in May Pen, parish capital of Clarendon in Jamaica on Dec. 8, 1942. The youngest of seven siblings, he grew up singing in the church choir before moving to Kingston in 1961, according to Reggaeville.

The Guardian reports one of his brothers gave Hibbert the nickname, “Little Toots” and that Hibbert’s parents had both died when he was a sixteen, prompting his move to the Trenchtown area of Kingston.

That’s where he met his wife, Doreen, and they married when Hibbert was 18. In those early days, he worked in a barbershop. According to Famous Singers, Hibbert wrote the songs “It’s You” and “Never You Change” for Doreen. The couple had eight children together.

One of their daughters, Genieve Bailey, posted just 13 hours ago on Facebook that her dad had been “stable and improving.”

And on Sept. 2, another Reggae Legend, Jimmy Cliff, posted a Facebook video that he’d heard his “friend and fellow artist, Toots” was in an induced coma, “So I’m sending out positive energy and positive vibrations to him, for him to get well, soon,” Cliff said. “And I’m asking all my fans and friends and everybody to send out the same good energies to him. Blessed love.”

Even Doreen stayed optimistic, saying in a statement issued through publicist Claud Mills, “Frederick is very strong. I know he will pull through. He is a fighter.”

But just weeks after entering the hospital, Hibbert’s life ended.

Mills told the Jamaican Observer, “Jamaica has lost a great cultural icon. The soul of an age has died. The family is asking for privacy at this time as they are going through a very difficult period. Toots was the patriarch of the family. He was everything to his family.”

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