Rockstead to Ska to Reggae: Hail to Toots

The first ever Ska concert that I attended was at Carib Theatre, when my mother insisted that I, a pre-teen, tagged along with my older sister and her friends. I remember the frenzy when Toots came on stage, and his vibrant energy that pulled me out of my seat, to climb on it, so I could see him dancing across the stage, his face beaded in sweat.

I remember the rhythm and joyful energy in his festival winning Rockstead song, “Bam-Bam,” a precursor to Reggae, the tail-end of Ska. The lyrics of which says, “I am the man who fights for right not for the wrong…” In the early period of Jamaica’s independence the music was positive and singers were affirming Peace for themselves and for our society. Toots represents that tradition and drive for solidarity.

Toots’ personality on and off stage was always positive and easy. He took things in stride, and used his life as the basis of his music. He never allowed stumbling blocks to hinder him, so when he was arrested for ganja in 1966, his first hit after his 18 months release was his jail number.

This picture of Toots and I were taken by my daughter Shola, and I took the others at the National Gallery in Kingston, Jamaica this February. I was so excited to have my daughter meet him, and to take this photo with him. I had hoped to interview him, but COIVD happened.

His legend will live on as will his many hits, and he will always be indelible in my memory as my first music idol. He was one of the runner ups in this year’s festival with his song, ” Rise Up Jamaicans” which calls on all Jamaicans to rise up with love and peace. He also just released his first studio album in a decade, entitled Got To Be Tough. He was tough and enduring, a giant who for 60 years made great music.

Sing forever Toots in the land of the ancestors. Asè


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