Toots, player of instrumentsMonday, September 14, 2020
BY BRIAN BONITTO
TOOTS Hibberts's exploits as a singer are well documented but how good a musician was he?
The Jamaica Observer posed that question to Jackie Jackson, bass player for Toots and The Maytals since 1969.
“As a musician, Toots was decent, very decent. But he's more of a singer than musician,” Jackson said. “He plays a decent drum, a nice little guitar, a decent little bass, and he fools around with the keyboard.”
Hibberts' musical prowess is on show on his latest album, Got To Be Tough, his first in more than a decade. It was released August 28 on the Trojan Jamaica/BMG imprint.
In addition to the title track, the 10-track set boasts Drop Off Head, Just Brutal, Freedom Train, Warning Warning, Good Thing That You Call, Stand Accused, Having A Party, Struggle, and a cover of Bob Marley's Three Little Birds.
“Ah him one play everything!” Jackson exclaimed. “None of us as musicians touched an instrument on that album. We weren't a 100 miles near to the studio and it came out pretty decent.”
The veteran musician said Hibbert was inspired to play multiple instruments on an album by Prince.
“It was Toots's long-time dream to do an album by himself; meaning, he wanted to play all the instruments on the album. Long time, I don't even remember the date, but Big Mountain opened for us in LA [Los Angeles], and Prince had a club in LA. Prince was at the concert that night and Toots met him. Prince did an album that he played 27 instruments and mi hear Toots sey: 'One of these days, I want to do that',” Jackson recalled. “And we as musicians encouraged him... My hope is that the album becomes a triple-platinum seller and tops all the charts worldwide.”
On his debut album, For You, released in 1978 when Prince was 20, he played every instrument: 27 in all.
Prince died of an accidental drug overdose at his Minnesota home in April 2016. He was 57.
Hibbert, 77, passed away at the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew on Friday night after being transferred to the medical facility late last month due to respiratory challenges.
A seminal figure in ska and rocksteady, Toots and the Maytals helped popularise reggae globally. In fact, Hibbert's 1968 song, Do The Reggay, is widely credited for giving reggae its name.
For the past 20 years, Hibbert has collaborated with high-profile acts including Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and Ben Harper. He won the Grammy Award for Best Album in 2005 with True Love.
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