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Toots Hibbert

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The great reggae musician Toots Hibbert has died, apparently from COVID-19:

Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, frontman of the pioneering reggae outfit Toots and the Maytals and one of the greatest voices in popular music, died Friday evening at the age of 77.

“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,” his family said in a statement. “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.”

A cause of death was not disclosed, but the reggae giant was hospitalized last month after showing symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. He was later placed in a medically-induced coma where a rep for the musician said he was “fighting for his life.”

Hibbert’s death comes just weeks after Toots and the Maytals released their new album, Got to Be Tough, the band’s first full-length LP in more than 10 years and now a capstone for Hibbert’s remarkable six-decade career. Hibbert was instrumental in not only bringing reggae to the world, but crafting its sound and — by his own account — coining its name on his 1968 song “Do the Reggay.”

To form this new style, Hibbert infused reggae precursors like rocksteady and ska with elements of traditional Jamaican mento, as well as gospel, soul, R&B, and rock & roll. He could start a party as easily as he could deliver spiritual musings and social-justice rallying cries, all in a voice that recalled the likes of Otis Redding and Ray Charles but was always distinctly “Toots.”

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