Thursday, September 3, 2020

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Reggae Artiste 'Toots' Hibbert Has Died

Reggae Singer Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert has died. He passed away on Friday at the University Hospital of the West Indies at the age of 77. Toots had been in a medically induced Coma.
Along with Trench Town and Rockfort, Clarendon produced most of Jamaica's early music stars; among them Toots Hibbert. Toots, who died September 11 at age 77 at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, started his career in the early 1960s the same time as his 'parishina' Derrick Morgan. “Toots a di real man, mi bredrin an' mi big bredda. Him mean everything to mi as a friend an' a artiste,” said Freddie McGregor, another Clarendon-born act. McGregor went to Studio One with Peter Austin and Ernest Wilson of The Clarendonians after Toots and The Maytals left that studio, for which they did songs like the biblical Six And Seven Books of Moses. It was Bam Bam, their song that won the first Festival Song Competition in 1966, that made the biggest impression on McGregor, who was 10 years old. “I don't know where him head was at di time but him sing dat song with a lot of heart and energy. It really resonated with di country,” he said. McGregor last saw Toots in August when they competed in the Festival Song Competition, won by Buju Banton with I am A Jamaican. He believes Toots' contribution to music has been overlooked in Jamaica and pointed to one area where he was very vocal. “He always spoke about his royalties an' how he got a raw deal. He was never afraid to speak up for his rights,” said McGregor. In addition to Clement Dodd at Studio One, Toots and The Maytals recorded for a number of producers including Byron Lee, Ronnie Nasralla, Leslie Kong and Chris Blackwell at Island Records. Their greatest success was with Kong for whom they did songs like 54-46, Monkey Man, Pressure Drop, and Sweet And Dandy. Toots' last album, Got to be Tough, was released by Trojan Jamaica/BMG Records in August.

Eric Donaldson

NEXT Monday, seven-time Jamaica Festival Song Competition winner Eric Donaldson will be bestowed an Order of Distinction in the rank of officer (OD) for his outstanding service to the Jamaican music industry. Due to restrictions brought on by COVID-19, the ceremony will be virtual. Music insider Clyde McKenzie believes, despite being long overdue, Donaldson is well deserving of the accolade. “I suppose we have to find a way to not overlook outstanding contributors like those, so that they don't have to wait very long. Because sometimes, what you find is that some worthy people die before they managed to be awarded. You don't want that, you want people to be recognised during their lifetime,” McKenzie told the Jamaica Observer yesterday. “Let us commend the persons who have nominated him and ensured he received an award. It's long overdue and we congratulate him because Eric has the most popular festival song, Cherry Oh Baby, covered by many international acts. He is really very popular. We need to salute these icons.” Born in Bog Walk, St Catherine, Donaldson won the Jamaica Festival Song Competition a record seven times — Cherry Oh Baby (1971), Sweet Jamaica (1977), Land of My Birth (1978), Proud to Be Jamaica (1984), Big It Up (1993), Join de Line (1995) , and Peace and Love (1997). Land of My Birth is regarded as Jamaica's unofficial anthem, while Cherry Oh Baby still enjoys huge popularity. The 49-year-old Cherry Oh Baby has been covered by The Rolling Stones for their 1976 album, Black and Blue, and the British reggae outfit UB40 on their album Labour of Love in 1983. The song's rhythm has also remained popular with more than 30 cover versions recorded over the years, including an update by Donaldson himself. In July, he was acknowleged for his contribution to the Jamaica Festival Song contest with a plaque. Early last year, the singer received an Icon Award from the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association. He said while he was elated at the gesture, he feels his country has forgotten him. “It feels very good to know that somebody remembers me. I'm in the business for a long time and I get a few awards years ago, but this is definitely something very different,” he told the Observer at the event, adding that he hoped, one day, to be recognised with a National Honour from the Government of Jamaica. McKenzie, who received an Order of Distinction for services to the creative industry in 2017, said National Awards can also serve as inspiration for young people looking on. “And importantly, even more than the persons who get them, it sets an example for young people in the society to emulate... they should say: 'this is the kind of person that I can look up to and can follow how they have lived their lives' and Eric is most deserving of it.”

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