Update 9/11/2020: It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Toots Hibbert last night, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. Toots was surrounded by family inside Kingston’s UWI Hospital when he lost his battle with COVID. The world mourns and offers condolences to the Hibbert family, Toots’s band & crew, his friends, and fans. Rest in peace, kind sir, your legacy lives on.
This intro below was written before Toots’ passing. It announces his new album, Got To Be Tough, his first in 10 years, released on Aug. 28, 2020. Follow the link to the story by Jason Fine included below for one of the best articles you’ll ever find on the life & music of Frederick “Toots” Hibbert. ~M. Peggy Quattro
TOOTS HIBBERT, the Godfather of Ska & Reggae Soul, returns to his roots on Got to be Tough, his first album in 10 years, released Aug. 28, 2020. Tracks on the new album include the title track, as well as “Warning Warning,” “Freedom Train,” and “Three Little Birds” featuring Ziggy Marley. The album is produced by Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr. Toots plays guitar and bass, Sly Dunbar is on drums, and one of the engineers is legend Delroy “Fatta” Pottinger.
Below is the intro to a recent article by Rolling Stones writer Jason Fine. It is the best story I’ve ever read about Jamaica’s music legend, Frederick “Toots” Hibbert. His family and friends call him “Nyah,” those who know and love him call him “Fireball.” Take a journey with Jason as he hangs out with Toots in 2016 to witness first-hand his musical magic and to record this interview of a lifetime. Those who know Toots – and those who want to – will surely enjoy the detail, history, and humor Jason brings to life in this Rolling Stone’s article. Trust mi, I laughed till I cried as Jason illustrates with words why Toots Hibbert is a treasure… our treasure. We are so blessed to have him in our lifetime. Enjoy!
“He’s a person of such historical significance, like an Elvis or a BB King,…” ~singer/musician Bonnie Raitt
A Reggae King Rises Again
Toots Hibbert is one of the pioneers of reggae — and wrote many of its classic hits. After a devastating injury, the man they call Fireball is back to reclaim his throne
By Jason Fine – Rolling Stone.com, Aug. 18, 2020
It took two years of phone calls and confusing negotiations to get myself invited to visit Toots Hibbert at his fortress-like pink stucco compound in the Red Hills section of Kingston, Jamaica. When I finally arrived, he wasn’t home. No one around seemed to know the whereabouts of the world’s greatest living reggae singer. His grandson, an aspiring reggae artist who calls himself King Trevi, was perched on some concrete steps and suggested that maybe Toots went to the gym. A woman hanging laundry on a rope strung across the dirt yard thought he’d gone to the country. Someone said he might be napping.
I was directed to wait in the yard, near a dusty fence painted the colors of the Jamaican flag. A dreadlocked old-timer in a mesh shirt sat on a wooden barstool under the shade of a mango tree. He advised me to stay away from the Rottweilers, which he whispered can be “dangerous.” Fortunately, I didn’t see any Rottweilers, just a hobbled orange mutt panting in the shade. Nearby, Toots’ driver and bodyguard, Courtney, who also goes by the name Wesley, was eating a to-go plate of chicken off the hood of his Toyota Corolla. I asked if he’d seen the boss. His response was garrulous but inconclusive. “Nyah, he come and he go,” Courtney said, using the name Toots’ family and close friends call him. “Every day is different, different mood and feelings. So much on his mind. Never enough time for a man like this man. He follow his own riddim. He the leader, we the follower.” Then he set the box of chicken bones on the ground for the orange dog or maybe the Rottweilers to finish.
Somewhere, not far off, I could hear music, muffled as if it were coming from behind walls: a heavy reggae bassline, clacking rhythm guitar, keyboards skidding across the top. It was a short, repeating section, booming through the hot, still air. After a while, vocals filled in the mix, rhythmic, intense:
“You are taking our rights from us!
You don’t care
We didn’t get nothing! Nothing! Nothing!”
The voice sounded bruised but defiant, growling and also somehow joyous. It was unmistakably the voice of Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, one of the creators of reggae music, and one of the greatest soul singers of all time, in a lineage with Sam, Ray, and Otis. With few of modern music’s pioneering voices still around or vital — his good friend Willie Nelson might be the closest comparison — Toots is a living treasure, a star whose light originates long ago and far away, but still shines brightly on us now.
“They call me Fireball! As long as I am strong, I am young.”
Suddenly, the music stopped. In the quiet, I could hear parrots arguing in the palm trees and kids playing outside somewhere. When I looked up, out of nowhere, there was Toots, emerging from a metal door at the back of his property. He wore baggy black sweatpants and a black sleeveless undershirt, with sunglasses propped on top of his short, tightly-curled jet-black hair. Deep into his seventies, he is compact, solid, and strong, with muscled arms and the quick, efficient movements of a boxer (which Toots was as a teenager). In one hand he held a plastic cup of clear liquid, and in the other a dirty dish towel, which he used to wipe the sweat from his face, then stuffed into the neckline of his shirt.
He broke into a wide smile and waved his hands in the air. “Fireball!” he announced in greeting. “Welcome to the Reggae Center.”
To read the rest of this fascinating and witty article, click HERE .
Watch “Got to be Tough” here↓
Click here to watch two videos from the new LP – Got to be Tough & Warning Warning on our Reggae Greats playlist!