Toots on sticking to his roots; Music; Reggae legend may live in luxury now but he says he'll never forget the Jamaican ghetto where he came from.
Byline: With GAVIN MARTIN
Toots Hibbert is a true Jamaican legend. With his 1968 hit Do The Reggay, he gave a name to the musical genre that made the Caribbean island famous. His joyful anthemic songs have inspired successive generations, from The Specials to Amy Winehouse, and his raw vocals have won fans across the generations, including Sean Paul and Willie Nelson.
Sipping whisky in his London hotel suite, Toots, 74, is a small but irrepressible force of nature ready to greet the crowds who sing along to timeless favourites, such as Monkey Man, Pressure Drop and Reggae Got Soul.
"I teach them the words of my song and if I forget it, they will remind me," he says with a smile. "The audience is my back-up." He's back doing what he loves, although the bandana around his head hides scars from a vodka bottle hitting him while performing on tour in America in 2014.
Although the incident left him shaken, he wrote to the judge pleading for clemency for the man who threw the bottle.
"I figured he didn't want to do that and he's a student and I was singing for them," says Toots. "I wanted the judge to understand that I don't want him to get 20 years in prison. His father and his mum apologised. They didn't have any money."
The youngest of seven children, he was raised in country poverty, running to school in bare feet, practising a sort of Christian religion that used marijuana in its ritual, like the Rastafarianism practised by his pal Bob Marley. In recent years, Toots has recorded Marley songs with the late great man's sons Damian and Ziggy but - like the music he recorded with Marley when he was alive - it remains as yet unreleased.
He says: "It's good to do songs with great people. All these people that I sing with, I think they are greater than me."
Although these days he lives in sumptuous luxury in an estate overlooking the Caribbean, he never forgets where he came from.
"I'm from the ghetto," he says. "Ghetto means sometimes you need something and you cannot get it because you have no money, so you can write songs about that. All my songs are still in that reality."
Tour starts July 14, Beat-Herder Festival, Dockber Farm, nr Sawley, Lancs