Their first international hit that helped popularise the genre, "54-46 Was My Number" has been covered, sampled, and revived by so many artists in so many genres over the years, from The Clash to Major Lazor. (Photo: Courtesy of Kim Gottlieb-Walker, 1975)
If you have Elvis Presley for rock n' roll, Louis Armstrong for Jazz, or Tiesto for EDM, Toots Hibbert is definitely out there on the same league with Bob Marley for reggae.
And if he didn't invent reggae, he did lay down the genre's foundations and coined the term himself. From his 1968 track "Do the Reggay", Hibberts accidentally changed the word "streaggae" to "reggae" and believed that it was came from the Latin word regi, which means king. In his latest interview with Vogue, the 77-year-old recalls:
I took the word from a slang word we have in Jamaica called 'streggae'—that was just a nickname for people who don’t dress properly, people who don’t look good—girls or boys—we say, 'Aaaaye. . . that’s streggae!'
So me and Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias were recording songs one day, and I said 'Let’s do the reggay.'"
His group with Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias, Toots & The Maytals, has opened for so many other iconic bands like The Who and the Rolling Stones—and eventually also had Reggae superstar Bob Marley and the Wailers open for them.
Their newest album in over a decade, Got To Be Tough, sounds like they never went away from the scene. That familiar soulful voice is still present and tackles the relevant issues and struggles of today's society. Sadly, some themes about police brutality and racial discrimination still proves true like it did four decades ago.
"We never planned it, but all these years later, I’m proud that I’m still making my living with reggae."
The album takes turns between reggae and R&B - with Hibbert's writing almost all of the songs - except for one track. The only cover in the album is his own version of Bob Marley's 'Three Little Birds' and contains one of his most classic, revered lines: “Don’t worry about a thing / Every little thing is gonna be alright.”
Listen to the full album on Spotify: