Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, who had been the leader of Toots & The Maytals, passed away on Friday in Kingston, Jamaica, at the age of 77. The cause of death has not yet been confirmed, however Hibbert had been hospitalized at the end of August and tested for COVID-19. Shortly after being admitted, Hibbert had been placed in a medically-induced coma. Toots & The Maytals announced Hibbert’s death via Twitter, stating that Hibbert had passed away peacefully as he was surrounded by his family.
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… pic.twitter.com/zOb6yRpJ7n
— Toots & The Maytals (@tootsmaytals) September 12, 2020
“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 Wist Indies in Kingston, Jamaica,” Toots & The Maytals said in a statement on Twitter. “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.”
Hibbert is credited for being the first person to use the word “reggae” on a record, the word appearing on the 1968 track, “Do The Reggay.” Hibbert’s songs often portrayed the sweet and elevating sounds that are now synonymous with reggae, while still depicting the lives of people who were simply trying to make it from one day to the next. Hibbert’s singing has often been compared to Otis Redding’s, and Hibbert had been ranked at No. 71 by Rolling Stone‘s 2010 100 Greatest Singers list.
First forming in 1962, the group was made up of Hibbert, Henry “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Mathias, and simply called themselves The Maytals. The name did not change to Toots & the Maytals until 1972, and released several of their most iconic records before the name change, including “Bam Bam” (which went on to be covered by Sister Nancy), “Monkey Man” and “Do the Reggay.”
In 1966, Hibbert spent 18 months in jail after being charged for possession of marijuana. Hibbert went on to state that he had been framed, and had been arrested as he was bailing his friend out of jail. The song “54-56 (Was My Number)” had been written about Hibbert’s arrest and experience in jail.
Photo credit: Boston Lynn Schulz