I first learned about Toots & The Maytals upon the release of their 2004 album True Love, featuring new takes on their classic songs with guests ranging from Willie Nelson to No Doubt. Prior, my reggae knowledge was limited to the Marley family, and ska was the 90’s horn-filled pop-punk I had grown up on.
Then I heard “Pressure Drop”, and my world expanded. It remains one of my all-time favorite ska/reggae songs, and as I went further into Toots Hibbert’s catalogue, I discovered more and more amazing songs, like the frenetic “Monkey Man”, and the sorrowful “Careless Ethiopians”. Only a few weeks ago, we received his latest album Got to Be Tough, featuring great tracks like “Just Brutal”, melding infectious reggae rhythms with socially conscious lyrics. Toots had a powerful voice, and brought a bright spirit to his music that could make even the most serious songs uplifting. Even his covers of songs like John Denver‘s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” would become iconic in their own right.
Two weeks ago I learned that Toots had been fighting Covid-19, and while I held hope he would make a recovery, it was sadly announced today that he is joining the many thousands of people who have lost their lives to this horrible virus. We send our condolences to his family and loved ones, and hope the art he created continues to bring joy to the world for decades to come.
If you’re unfamiliar with Toots‘ music, below are a couple good albums to start with.