A Father of Reggae Is Dead at 77

Toots Hibbert of Toots & the Maytals had been in a medically induced coma since earlier this month
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 12, 2020 8:30 AM CDT
A Father of Reggae Is Dead at 77
In this July 13, 2019, file photo, Toots Hibbert performs with the Maytals in Grass Valley, Calif.   (Elias Funez/The Union via AP)

Toots Hibbert, one of reggae's founders and most beloved stars who gave the music its name and later helped make it an international movement through such classics as "Pressure Drop," "Monkey Man," and "Funky Kingston," has died. He was 77. Hibbert, frontman of Toots & the Maytals, had been in a medically induced coma since earlier this month. He was admitted into intensive care after complaints of having breathing difficulties, per his publicist. It was revealed in local media the singer was awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. A family statement said Hibbert died Friday at University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, surrounded by family. News of the five-time Grammy nominee's ill health came just weeks after his last known performance, on a national livestream during Jamaica's August emancipation and independence celebrations.

A muscular ex-boxer, Hibbert was a bandleader, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and showman whose concerts sometimes ended with dozens of audience members dancing with him on stage. As with other reggae stars, Hibbert's following soared after the release of the landmark 1972 film The Harder They Come, which starred Jimmy Cliff as a poor Jamaican who moves to Kingston and dreams of a career in music. Hibbert's career was halted in 2013 after he sustained a head injury from a vodka bottle thrown during a Virginia concert and suffered from headaches and depression. But by the end of the decade he was performing again, and in 2020 he released another album, Got to Be Tough. Grammy nominations for Hibbert included best reggae album of 2012 for Reggae Got Soul and best reggae album of 2007 for Light Your Light. Married to his wife, Doreen, for nearly 40 years, Hibbert had eight children.

(More reggae stories.)

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