Toots’ Grammy win ‘a great posthumous honour for a legend’
When the Recording Academy announced on Sunday that Got to be Tough, by pioneering ska and reggae band, Toots and the Maytals had won the Best Reggae Album category of the 63rd Grammy Awards, there were at least two persons who were not surprised: manager Cabel ‘Jeffrey’ Stephenson and bass player for the group, Jackie Jackson.
“The celebration has started,” Jackson told The Gleaner prior to the announcement, and by the time the winner was announced, he was ready with his acceptance speech. “This is a great honour posthumous for a legend and so befitting. Toots and the Maytals have a lifetime of hits starting with the ska era. Our only regret is that Toots is not here to celebrate a second time. But the saga continues with the Maytals band,” Jackson said.
For Stephenson, it was a “We did it!” moment when the winner was announced via the virtual livestream. “We always knew that we had a very strong chance because we had put in the work, not only on the production side of the album, but also on the marketing and promotion. Nyah [Toots] did countless Zoom interviews before he passed. It was a tough time, but he knew that we did this album for his many fans around the globe, and he did what had to be done,” he said.
“What people in the industry need to realise is that you make an album for it to hit Billboard and to amass huge record sales and get more fans. You don’t do an album for Grammy. You have to campaign for that award, just like candidates in politics. It is important for the industry people to be registered and vote because the blueprint is there,” Toots’ manager added.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, hailed the posthumous victory of the Reggae legend. “Toots put his all into this album and I’m very glad to see him recognised for his creative excellence and musical genius. This is a great moment of celebration, not only for Toots’ family, his team or his record label, but for all Jamaicans, especially those of us in the Reggae industry,” Minister Grange said. She also congratulated all the nominees.
Stephensons was overflowing with thanks to all who helped to make the win a reality and named a whole army of people and entities, including Trojan Jamaica, BMG, David Spiro, Primary Wave, Roderick Gordon, Zak Starky, Shhh, Minister Olivia Grange, and Nigel Burrell. Stephenson declared: “Nobody can stop us from celebrating the great work that we have done. If Nyah was here, we would be at the AC Hotel now, calling people to personally tell them thanks. Nyah was that kind of person,” Stepehnson said with a touch of sadness in his voice.
Toots Hibbert passed away on September 11, 2020, less than two weeks after the album was released. He was 78. Recognised as a “national treasure” Toots was interred at the National Heroes Park in Kingston.
BEST REGGAE ALBUM AWARD
Toots and the Maytals previously won the Best Reggae Album award in 2005 for True Love, and both Jackson and Stephenson recalled that there was a major celebration of that win a decade and a half ago.
Got to be Tough, the band’s first studio album in more than 10 years, was released globally on Trojan Jamaica/BMG Records on August 28, just before the door closed on submissions for the 2020 Grammy awards. It was the group’s debut project on Trojan Jamaica, and the label was quick to shower them with praise. “Give the greatest thanks to the @recordingacademy for bestowing this honor upon the memory and legacy of #TootsHibbert! We are blessed to have known and made such beautiful music with Toots. #TootsForever,” Trojan’s social media post said in part.
Skip Marley, the grandson of reggae legend Bob Marley, was nominated in the Reggae Grammy category for his debut EP Higher Place, and he, too, was quick to offer congratulations to Toots. “Bless up @tootsmaytalsofficial on di Grammy win. Di whole foundation of wah wi ah do now is thanks to dem man deh, dem pinnacles of reggae music ... Nuh only reggae, blues, funk, soul, energy him bring, everything. Nobody nuh do di stage like Uncle Toots,” Skip said on Instagram.
There was also a Marley link on the album as Toots, who enjoyed a career of close to 60 years, teamed up with Bob Marley’s son, Ziggy, for a cover of the Marley classic Three Little Birds from the 1977 album Exodus.
Toots is credited with giving an entire genre its name when he named his 1968 song Do the Reggay and his “unique and unmistakable blend of soul, gospel, and reggae” is credited with influencing and inspiring countless other performers and thrilling fans the world over, for many decades. Jackson shared that often when the group was touring overseas, teenagers would come up to them and relate how their grandfather had introduced their father to Toots and the Maytals. “It would make us feel old,” he said with a laugh, “but it is always such an honour.”
He shared that the Maytals already have an album that is 75 per cent complete, and they are waiting for the world to reopen to continue touring. “I am happy to tell you that I got my first COVID shot yesterday, and I’ll be getting my next one on May 20, so as soon as it is possible to hit the road, we will be there. Booking agents are already calling. But for now, we are all savouring this wonderful moment,” an elated Jackson said.
In an interview prior to his passing, Toots had declared that Got to be Tough was “going to be amazing”, and he spoke of the meaning of the title, which was also the name of the lead single.
“The single Got to Be Tough is the lead single, and it is telling everyone that they have to be tough and resilient. Don’t give up, believe in yourself, believe in God and what you are doing, and it will all work out in the end,” he had said.
Among the other nominees in the reggae category were Buju Banton, who previously won in 2010 for the album Before the Dawn; The Wailers, who earned their nomination with their first album in over 25 years; and three-time nominee Maxi Priest.