Jamaican reggae pioneer Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert has died at the age of 77.
The legendary musician fronted the reggae and ska band Toots & the Maytals from the early 1960s.
Hibbert “passed away peacefully” in Kingston, Jamaica surrounded by his family, the group announced on Friday.
As yet it is unknown how Hibbert died, although he had been tested for coronavirus in the last two weeks and was put into intensive care.
Hibbert is credited with popularising reggae music and even naming the genre – his 1968 single “Do the Reggay” is the first song to use the term.
Other popular tracks include Pressure Drop, Sweet and Dandy, and 54-46 That’s My Number.
In a statement, the band and Hibbert’s family thanked medical staff “for their care and diligence”. He is survived by his wife and seven of his eight children.
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… pic.twitter.com/zOb6yRpJ7n
— Toots & The Maytals (@tootsmaytals) September 12, 2020
His death comes just weeks before the release of Got to Be Tough, the band’s first full-length album in more than a decade.
Described as “the world’s greatest living reggae singer” in a Rolling Stone profile last month, his vocal style has been compared to Otis Redding. The magazine lists him as one of the 100 greatest singers of all time.
Tributes poured in for the legendary musician on social media.
UK actor and comedian Sir Lenny Henry said he was “so sorry” to hear of his death.
“His music was a constant in our house growing up,” he tweeted. “His voice was powerful and adaptable to funk, soul, country, AND reggae. Rest in power.”
Reggae and pop group UB40 said Hibbert’s music “influenced and inspired us to love reggae music from an early age”, while UK artist Ghostpoet wrote: “Another legend returns to the earth. What an impact he made in his time here.”
And Ziggy Marley – son of reggae icon Bob Marley – wrote on Twitter that Hibbert was “a father figure to me”.
The Legendary Toots Hibbert has passed i spoke w/him a few wks ago told him how much i loved him we laughed & shared our mutual respect. He was a father figure to me his spirit is w/us his music fills us w/his energy i will never forget him RIP MIGHTY & POWERFUL NYAH FYAH BALL 😢 pic.twitter.com/zIofrbYZU0
— Ziggy Marley (@ziggymarley) September 12, 2020