Grammy-winning “Skafather” Toots Hibbert made his reputation in Jamaica with 45’s, the old vinyl, seven-inches played in sound systems and juke boxes throughout the island. It’s fitting then, that this year we celebrate the resilient pioneer’s 45th anniversary of his entry into the recording industry. Thirty one of his singles have reached the top position on Jamaica’s hit parade, a feat no other artist has ever accomplished. Toots’ continuous hold on the public’s attention is verified by the Grammy Award he received for his 2004 release, True Love. His latest effort, Light Your Light, is an equally crowd-pleasing affair and features his all-star band that includes some of the Caribbean’s finest musicians.
Born in 1945 in the Jamaican country town of Maypen, Clarendon, Toots began to sing publicly in church alongside his brothers and sisters. Once he reached his teen years, he left his home for Kingston where he found work as a singer in a barbershop. His encounter with Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Matthias led to the formation of the Maytals in 1962. Just four years later, Toots & The Maytals won the first Jamaican Festival Song competition with their hit “Bam, Bam.” They went on to win twice more before retiring from the competition to give others a chance at the top prize.
The golden age of reggae began with the first mention of the word, albeit misspelled, in the title of the Maytals’ 1968 smash, “Do the Reggay”. Toots remembers, “I say, let’s do the reggae, and that’s the way it is. Coming from the soul, from consciousness, life and living. Reggae is a God music, coming from the vibes of the Rastafari, it’s coming from the dreadlocks.”