Larga vida a Toots

The 2020 has not stopped taking our breath away, It has been a year full of situations that have broken our routines, if at some point we could do them. Has made us understand, get to know each other and know what our limits are. Y, despite everything we've lived through in these 9 months nothing prepared us for the blank space that Frederick would leave “Toots” Hibbert.

Frederick was a reggae fundamentalist, for more than 6 decades gave him a place and a flag, one meaning, an epinicio to sing. A pioneer of the genre, a singular and unique man who gave ska-reggae a voice. His love for music was born from a young age, because every Sunday he was part of the church choir, we could say that the gospel opened the doors to a new universe.

But nevertheless, life shakes him unfairly with the death of his parents. With only 11 years, leaves his hometown May Pen, Parish of Clarendon, Jamaica and moves with his older brother to Trenchtown, and Kingston. The years go by and Toots grows, He becomes a man and starts working at a local barbershop, where he would meet his future bandmates, Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Matthias.

Then this incredible group was born under the name of Toots and the Maytals, for the knowledge of many or few "Maytals" in Jamaican means “do the right thing” (do the right) and boy did they do it. Toots was a multi-instrumentalist man, I could play all the instruments in the band, as he also had a great musical background that was also the pillar of his influences, great musicians like Otis Redding, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, and Ray Charles, to name a few.

With the passing of the years, Toots and the Maytals stop being a trio with the integration of two new members, Jackie Jackson y Paul Douglas. By the middle of the years 60 this would be one of the most influential bands in Jamaica, a group distinguished by its perfect harmonies, Toots' rough voice beating the beats, his multifaceted songs that paid homage to Rastafarianism or the classic single from 1966 “54-46 That’s My Number”, inspired by that "little incident" in which Hibbert was sentenced to 18 months in prison for possession of marijuana.

Toots and the Maytals worked alongside great producers like Prince Buster, Coxsone Dee, Leslie Kong. But it wasn't until 1970 when the band releases their first album “Funky Kingston”, with the record label Island Records, distributed by Chris Blackwell. A disc containing 10 songs, among them the great classics "Pomps Pride" in which we can taste the great influence of Redding in this track with the famous chorus "Do re mi fa so la" an unforgettable song at first listen. We can also find other great hits like "Pressure Drop", fantastic theme that -despite the simplicity of its lyrics-, the music that adorns it from beginning to end elevates the mood and you sing with one hand pressed to the heart and the other, raising emotions.

Three years later, They surprise us with another magnificent album "In The Dark" in which they premiere the famous track "54-46 That's my number", emotional songs like “Take Home, Country Roads”, “Having a Party”, “Time Tough”, an album full of restlessness and small details that add a great feeling, you delight in each of the choirs and it is that, Toots and The Maytals were just getting started and already seemed to be getting immortal.

In the years 80 Hibbert separates his path from Gordon and Jerry to then make a solo career that led him to explore other paths not previously traveled, without losing the north of their tunes, ska and reggae as a musical transversal in everything I would do. For 1988 -without the company of two of its members-, Toots earns first Grammy nomination for album “Toots in Memphis”.

He worked with other great artists, as is Willie Nelson the epitome of country music; finally wins a Grammy for "Best Reggae Album" at the 2005 with disc “Countryman”, version of Radiohead's "Let Down" track for the band Easy Stars All Stars, plays with RHCP the song "Louie Louie", collaborates with Steel Pulse What did Toots not do in this life?

But in the 2013 Hibbert is attacked at the River Rock Festival while performing, a bottle flew through the air and hit him on the head, causing him to leave the stage and therefore all the "gigs" he would have for the date, Even so, Hibbert pleaded for the culprit and sent a letter to the judge asking him to please forgive the convict, referring to himself as a "Silly young man" to which he added that he well knew (Toots) what happened to men in jail and what, the pain it caused is enough punishment and learning. The judge only gave him a sentence of 6 months. This was the kind of nobility that reigned in Toots's heart.

Three years later, goes on tour again and collaborates with Major Lazer and Bad Royale in the song "My number" in which the sampler del clásico “Whats my number”.

Without a doubt he was an influential man in music, inspired the greatest performers like Keith Richards, Erick Clapton, Ziggy Marley. It gave a unique color to the harmonies, to melodies and became a leader in Jamaican music, his distinctive voice, his choirs that accompanied him and the rhythms that adorned each of his songs.

A man who did not stop creating, to compose, to sing and enjoy every day in a studio. Proof of this is his latest album "Got to be Tough" in which he emphasizes rights, the cessation of violence, the racism, sing as always for the freedom of man, but the biggest surprise of this album is the version that makes Bob Marley "Three Little Birds" with Ziggy Marley, the song features an interesting twist in which ska is the cross-section of the theme entirely, takes us by complete surprise.

Frederick “Toots” Hibbert is more than a musical reference, is a polyphonic and harmonious legend, he was a man who marked a milestone in reggae. Thousands of songs to be heard over and over again, another record of vinyl more to hear and treasure like a great gem. A man who became immortal in each of his tracks.

Thanks a lot, Toots.

Madrid, Spain
Daniela Alayeto @cornelia_amor
Otto Pereda @otto.pereda