Jamaican reggae legend Frederick Nathaniel "Toots" Hibbert died on Friday, September 11th, surrounded by loved ones at the University Hospital of the West Indies. No cause of death has been reported, however, band members confirmed he was hospitalized in an intensive care unit, awaiting results from a COVID-19 test.
Hibbert is widely regarded as the father of the genre, even coining the term with his 1968 single “Do the Reggay.” He told Vogue Magazine last month, “I took the word from a slang word we have in Jamaica called ‘streggae’ — that was just a nickname for people who don’t dress properly.”
With his band The Maytals, Hibbert won the Jamaica National Popular Song Contest three times through the '60s and '70s. Their 1969 single "Pressure Drop" was featured on the soundtrack to The Harder They Come, a 1972 film that the Los Angeles Times claimed "brought reggae to the world." (Hibbert, himself, appears in the movie performing the track "Sweet and Dandy.")
In 1988, Hibbert received his first Grammy nomination for his greatest hits solo collection Toots In Memphis. In 2005, reunited with The Maytals, their album True Love won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album of the year.
Just a few weeks ago, Toots and the Maytals released the album Got to Be Tough, their first full-length LP in more than 10 years. While it's been nearly 60 years since the band originally formed, their spirit and soul is as strong as ever on the new release.
"What a soul, what a personality, Toots. He’s like the sun. When he walks in, he lights up the place. Whether it’s a show or he’s just walking. He was always saying hi to everyone. What a spirit that man was, what a soul," remarked fellow reggae legend Jimmy Cliff in a statement to Rolling Stone. "His spirit will always be resonating with us. His soul will always be resonating with us and the people who loved his music."
His former label Trojan Records wrote: "We are so sad to hear of the passing of Toots. A true pioneer who changed lives and brought so much joy through his music. We have lost a true legend. Your music will live on forever Fredrick Nathaniel 'Toots' Hibbert."
Hibbert is survived by his wife of 39 years and seven children. In a statement released on Saturday, they wrote: "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."