Music » Livewire

Toots & the Maytals

Wednesday, August 15, at Peabody's.

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Frederick "Toots" Hibbert and the Maytals (backing singers Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias) recorded "Do the Reggay" in 1968, unwittingly giving an official handle to a Jamaican hybrid of calypso and R&B previously called ska or rock steady. Hibbert was a country boy who moved to Kingston in the late '50s, living in the ghetto and trying to make it as a ska singer. He, Gordon, and Mathias had their first hit, "Halleluyah," 40 years ago, followed by a string of local hits that continued until Hibbert was sent to prison in 1966 for possession of ganja (an experience immortalized in the Maytals' hit "54-46 Was My Number"). During the Bob Marley-fueled reggae boom of the '70s, the Maytals cut critical albums for Island Records -- Funky Kingston, Reggae Got Soul, Pass the Pipe, Just Like That, and Knockout -- and contributed "Sweet and Dandy" and "Pressure Drop" to the soundtrack of the reggae film The Harder They Come. Hibbert disbanded the group in 1982 and re-formed it in the mid-'90s. Where much so-called reggae today is trying its damnedest to sound like hip-hop, the Maytals are keeping the roots-reggae banner flying. Their gospel-influenced sound -- Hibbert's voice has been compared to the late Otis Redding's -- cuts right to the guts of the music that made a tiny island the Nashville of the Caribbean.

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