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It was hard going back on stage after the bottle attack, but it's my life; REGGAE LEGEND TOOTS HIBBERT'S LIFE WAS PUT ON HOLD WHEN HE WAS HIT BY A FLYING BOTTLE DURING A MUSIC FESTIVAL. MARION MCMULLEN FINDS OUT HOW IT'S TAKEN HIM THREE YEARS TO PUT IT BEHIND HIM.

PERFORMING before an audience was one of the great joys in life for Jamaican singer Toots of Toots and The Maytals fame.

The charismatic singer helped popularise the reggae sound with hits like Monkey Man, 54-56 (That's My Number), Pressure Drop and Funky Kingston.

His live performances were legendary and he won a Grammy Award in 2005 for best reggae album with True Love. The retrospective album featured re-recorded classic hits and saw him working with an all-star line-up including Rolling Stone Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, country icons Willie Nelson, Terry Hall from The Specials, Jeff Beck and The Roots.

But everything changed three years ago when a vodka bottle thrown by a drunken fan during a performance at the Dominion Riverrock Festival in Richmond, Virginia, struck him on the forehead and left him cut and bleeding while he was performing a reggae version of the John Denver hit Country Roads.

The five times Grammy nominee was rushed off stage and needed six staples to his injured head. He had to cancel scheduled concert dates including his Keith Richards is a fan of Toots' music European and UK tour on medical advice.

The entire incident left him a shadow of his former self and scared of taking to the stage.

He still finds it hard to talk about the traumatic moment and has needed intensive therapy over the last few years to help him overcome his fears.

"It's been a difficult three years," agrees the 73-year-old, "but I am very happy to be able to now get back together with my musical family and prepare to share my music once again with my incredible fans."

He says he was left low after the incident - the man who threw the bottle, 21-year-old William Connor Lewis, was later sentenced to six months in jail - and not being able to perform was the hardest part.

"I've had a lot of support, a lot of help," says Toots, "I'm getting over it. I just take each day as it comes, one day at a time, and I'm really looking forward to be coming back to the UK.

"I've had a lot of treatment. There were bad things to remember about it all. It's very, very hard still. One of the biggest things I've had is memory loss, but I'm getting better and better every day. It's good."

Now Toots and the Maytals are performing again and about to head to the UK.

It will be their first UK tour in four years and will see the group, recognised as one of the world's top ska, reggae and rocksteady bands, appearing at the Big Feastival later this month and Madness House Of Common at Clapham Common on Bank Holiday Monday.

They then start their own eightday tour and Toots says it will be "very special" being back.

"I'm in America now and on a tour bus and then I get to go to the UK. It's always good going to Britain."

Frederick "Toots" Herbert, was born in Jamaica the youngest of seven children. Music was a big part of his childhood and he grew up singing gospel music in the church choir before forming the Maytals in the 1960s.

He says it was difficult in the early days and they had to work hard to get their music taken seriously.

But by the 1970s, the band were major stars in Jamaica and also making a name for themselves on the international music scene. They appeared in the 1972 film The Harder They Come, the soundtrack to which remains a seminal reggae album. Toots Live, recorded and released in 24 hours in 1980, has been called one of the top live albums of all time.

Over the last five decades, Toots has influenced countless artists, including The Specials, The Clash and Amy Winehouse, and has toured with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow and Los Lonely Boys. The Specials even recorded their version of Monkey Man for their 1979 debut album and The Clash covered Pressure Drop.

"I've worked with a lot of great people," smiles Toots, "Rolling Stones, Earth, Wind And Fire, so many people.

"The audiences who have been coming to see the shows have been good and performing live again, well, it makes me happy. It's one big family, listening to my music. It's my life. It's what I live for. It was hard when I first went back on stage, but it's OK. I just have to do the right thing."

| Go to facebook.com/tootsandthemaytals, thebigfestival.com and madness.co.uk/houseofcommon for more details.

One of the biggest things I've had is memory loss, but I'm getting better and better every day

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Keith Richards is a fan of Toots' music
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:5JAMA
Date:Aug 19, 2016
Words:796
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