Music » Livewire

Toots Hibbert

Monday, February 26, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Toots Hibbert was once christened "Jamaica's Otis Redding" -- a flattering title for sure, but it doesn't begin to describe the immense contribution he's made to Jamaican music. His group, Toots and the Maytals, are an amalgamation of American soul, jump-up Baptist revival, and raw mento (the 1950s Jamaican equivalent of calypso music from Trinidad). Their recordings from the early '60s defined the authentic Jamaican sound of ska, while their contemporaries were hopelessly hell-bent on emulating American boogie-woogie. Scorchers like 1963's "Dog War" feature raucous harmonies over frenzied horns and snap-crackle drums that pack more punch than a boxing match.

As the decade progressed and the breakneck pace of ska mellowed into reggae, the Maytals refined their sound. Yet their loose harmonies remained intact, becoming the benchmark for roots reggae vocal trios. But the '70s proved to be even more fruitful; they signed with Island Records and toured the world. Such international hits as "Pressure Drop" and "54-46 That's My Number" have since become standards covered by everyone from the Clash to Sublime.

Hibbert's latest solo album, 2004's True Love, found him reviving many of his older hits, working with guests like Bonnie Raitt and the Roots. As for tonight, Hibbert will not only perform, but will open the floor for your questions.

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