Sat | Jan 16, 2021

Bon voyage, Toots

Published:Saturday | September 26, 2020 | 12:07 AM


The Honourable Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, Grammy awardee and singer-songwriter of the legendary Toots and The Maytals, was a true reflection of creativity and versatility, vibrancy, and longevity.

Toots displayed true creativity, versatility, and mastery in many genres – from blues to mento, ska, rocksteady, and reggae. One of the earliest pioneers and cultural reggae ambassadors, he is officially credited with naming the genre through the 1968 hit Do the Reggay. He entertained throughout as we listened and danced and were thrilled by his recorded and live energetic performances for six long decades.

Toots Hibbert was a picture of energy and vibrancy, even into his late 70s. I recall an interview, about two months ago, in which Anthony Miller of TVJ’s ‘Entertainment Report’ asked his age, and he simply smiled. Was Toots feeling 54 or only 46 years old? Whether or not a man is as old as he looks or as young as he feels, he is certainly as young as he performs because it is performance and results that count. It is not the age a man is at but the stage on which he can perform, and Toots was a perennial peak performer who toured the world with the message of reggae music for decades and was still performing live.


Toots’ hit 54-46 was chosen in the ‘90s as the best reggae recording of all time in a poll conducted by Kevin O’Brien Chang. The significance of ‘54-46’ was his clarification and reflection on a most unfortunate period. But Toots turned tragedy to triumph through this song, which became his signature sound.

In Toots Hibbert’s passing on September 11, 2020, ‘54-46’ also represented 54 years since Toots and The Maytals immortalised themselves in history as Jamaica’s first Festival Song winners in 1966 with their entry Bam Bam and, in 2012, he was duly awarded the Order of Jamaica for his outstanding contribution to music.

We have lost a great entertainer and performer. Will he journey to quiet peace and rest or, as many envision, to a land of singing and rejoicing? Toots has a soul, and Reggae Got Soul. If it is to the latter, then I can imagine him inviting others to Rise Up, to Rubbie, Rubbie rhythmically in Sweet And Dandy style where we will Never, Never Grow Old.

Bon voyage, Bredda Toots!