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Review: Toots & The Maytals - Got To Be Tough (2020) [Updated with the Passing of Toots Hibbert] RIP

Written by Manny Pagsuyuin • Music Reviewer

Ska-reggae legend Frederick “Toots” Hibbert breaks a more than ten-year recording hiatus with the release of Got To Be Tough. Coming out on the heels of a six-decade musical career with Toots & The Maytals, the new album is released by his Trojan Jamaica label and is co-produced by Zak Starkey, drummer for The Who and son of Ringo Starr. A stellar lineup of guest musicians featuring the likes of Ziggy Marley, Sly Dunbar and Zak’s dad Ringo himself lend their talents on Tough.

A signature blend of soul-infected reggae with blasts of funk and the de riguer strain of resistance ever present in Toots’ music.

He has always sung about fighting. Against social injustice, systemic corruption, environmental destruction, most especially against racism. 50 years ago, Hibbert was wrongfully imprisoned for drug possession, a traumatic incident that inspired his signature hit 54-46 Was My Number, a song that catapulted him to the forefront of the burgeoning reggae scene. In 2020, Toots fights still.

Fighting fire with fire makes you no better (or badder) than the oppressor. Instead, Toots uses pacifism against the brutality of today, as depicted in the song Brutal. “Brought here, sold out, victimized brutally..” It’s enough to make lesser artists do run for the hills. Not Toots. Decrying injustice he instead sings “we need more love in our heart.”

In a recent interview, Toots said he was getting older and should do things now.

As of this writing, Hibbert was rushed to an intensive care unit mere days after the release of Got To Be Tough. Press releases stated that he is making progress since his hospitalization while awaiting the results of his Covid-19 test.

At 77, time is not exactly on Toots Hibbert’s side, but he is strong. Reports say he is resting, in good spirits and improving. “As long as I am strong, I am young” he said.

Updated on day of publication: Geekosity is sad to report Frederick Nathaniel "Toots" Hibbert has passed away. The family's statement is below:


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