I can nonetheless keep in mind the primary time I heard Strain Drop. The little drum intro. The bass riff. The rhythm guitars. After which the voice of Toots Hibbert, a voice each soulful and uncooked, comforting however just a bit menacing too.
It was a music to convey pleasure, to get a roomful of Doc Martens bouncing. It was additionally a music about revenge and karma. That was the best way with Hibbert – the melding of the blissful and the tough, the soothing and the sharp.
Frederick “Toots” Hibbert died on Saturday. Along with his group, the Maytals, based with Henry “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Matthias, he had been a pioneer of rocksteady in Jamaica within the early 1960s. Because the music developed, first into ska after which into reggae, Toots and the Maytals have been on the forefront of the shifts. Hibbert was an outstanding songwriter and storyteller. After which there was his voice, one which drew into reggae echoes of American gospel and soul, of Ray Charles and Otis Redding.
Signed as much as Island Data, Toots and the Maytals turned a part of that extraordinary collision of music, tradition and politics that helped outline late 1970s and early 1980s Britain. Punk, reggae and two tone, Rock in opposition to Racism and the Brixton riots, Thatcherism and the miners’ strike and songs comparable to Police and Thieves and Ghost City. Toots and the Maytals wove themselves into the soundtrack of these transformative years, their songs coated by the Conflict and the Specials, amongst others.
Toots Hibbert by no means possessed the worldwide attraction of Bob Marley, however he was simply as vital in reworking the music of Jamaica, infusing it with wider influences and bringing it to a brand new viewers. Reggae Acquired Soul was one of many Maytals’ hits. Nobody confirmed it greater than Toots Hibbert.
• Kenan Malik is an Observer columnist