#KINGSTON, November 18, 2020 – by CHRIS PATTERSON
Late reggae singer and cultural icon, Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, joins a select list of distinguished Jamaicans who have been laid to rest within the hallowed walls of the National Heroes Park in Kingston.
He died at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in St Andrew on September 11 at age 77, after a bout of illness.
On hand to witness the interment and bid farewell to Mr. Hibbert on Sunday (November 15) were: Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange; his widow, Doreen Hibbert, and family members, as well as friends and well-wishers.
Sunday’s ceremony featured musical tributes from well-known members of the local entertainment fraternity, among them: saxophonist, Dean Fraser; performing arts company, Nexxus; drummer, Bogo Herman; and singer, Demario McDowell.
The tributes also included several medleys of Mr. Hibbert’s vast musical repertoire.
The act of committal was undertaken by Pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle in Kingston, Rev. Merrick ‘Al’ Miller, and Dr. Carlene Davis.
In an interview with JIS News, Minister Grange said Mr. Hibbert stood out as one of Jamaica’s most outstanding singers, songwriters, performers, patriots, and loyalists, while describing him as a countryman “who was true to his roots”.
“He embodies everything that you would look for in a true Jamaican of African descent. You couldn’t find a warmer person, more loving individual, and a better human being,” she shared, noting that Jamaica and the world will miss his unique sound.
“His music is a treasure chest. His performance is something else. No-one else can perform like Toots. We have some great artistes, we have some great performers and songwriters. But there is just nobody like Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert… and I will say that over and over and over again without apology,” she added.
Ms. Grange urged his family to honour the name of the cultural icon who has performed outstandingly over the years.
“He loved everyone and his family has a responsibility to show that warmth and appreciation to each other and to others who are not family,” she said.
The Minister commended the medical team at the University Hospital of the West Indies who attended to Mr. Hibbert after he fell ill and was admitted.
“I just want to commend them for all the attention they gave him and all the work that they are doing to keep other Jamaicans alive and to have them survive this COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
Dean Fraser, who spoke with JIS News, described Mr. Hibbert as “one of the real superstars out of Jamaica”.
“His vocal ability was huge… better than the rest; and this is a real loss which can’t be replaced,” he shared.
Rev. Miller said Jamaica has lost an icon who has served Jamaica well, noting that “he means so much to so many of us all around the world”.
“Let us not just look at the loss; it is real, it is part of the journey of life. But remember Toots [as] the daddy, the husband, the brother, the friend who you knew, and remember him for who he is… and give thanks for his contribution to life,” he said
Mr. Hibbert’s group, Toots and the Maytals, which was formed in the 1960s, was pivotal in birthing, shaping and popularising Reggae music.
The group’s 1968 single, ‘Do the Reggay’, was the first song to use the word ‘Reggae’, which led to the genre’s naming and their subsequent introduction of the music form to a global audience.
Other popular songs by the group include ‘Monkey Man’, ‘Pressure Drop’, ‘Sweet and Dandy’, and ‘Bam’.
The latter two singles are among the three that propelled the group to the National Festival Song titles during the competition’s formative years, between 1966 and 1972.
The group topped the inaugural competition in 1966, with ‘Bam-Bam’, and replicated the feat in 1969 with ‘Sweet & Dandy’, and 1972 with ‘Pomps & Pride’.
Toots and the Maytals returned to the competition, which became their signature stomping ground, 48 years after their last triumph to participate in the 2020 edition with their entry ‘Rise up Jamaica’, which was among the 10 finalists.
Among the other notable accolades the group earned were: the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album with ‘True Love’, while Mr. Hibbert was recognised by the Government in 2012 with the Order of Jamaica for his contribution to Jamaica’s music.
Mr. Hibbert was laid to rest beside another globally-acclaimed Jamaica icon, the undisputed ‘Crown Prince of Reggae’, singer – Dennis Emanuel Brown.