Toots Hibbert was born in Jamaica in 1942. He was musical from a young age, having been brought up singing in a gospel choir. Aged 11, Hibbert moved to the Trenchtown neighbourhood of Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston. In 1961, with friends made while living in Trenchtown, Hibbert started Toots and the Maytals. He was a multi-skilled musician and could turn his hand to any of the instruments the band used.

Hibbert not only pioneered the musical style that would come to be known as reggae, but is also credited with inventing the term. His 1968 song ‘Do the Reggay” introduced the new concept to the world.

Much of the music made by Toots and the Maytals dealt with Hibbert’s life in Jamaica, religious themes and folk traditions. Monkey Man was the band’s first major international success, finding enthusiastic audiences across the globe, especially in the UK, where there was a growth in the size of Jamaican communities during the same period.

The success of Monkey Man in the UK was influenced by the fact that the song was recorded by a British-Jamaican label, Island Records, then an independent label dedicated to bringing new and exciting music to the UK.

Hibbert is remembered as one of the pioneers of ska, rocksteady and reggae, and is named amongst the greats, such as Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker, Peter Tosh, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Burning Spear. Toots and the Maytals, renamed ‘The Maytals’ since Hibbert’s death in 2020, continue to be listed as one of the most influential bands of the last sixty years.

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Black Music Collection #7

Minutes by Toots Hibbert