ACL Fest Interviews
Toots & the MaytalsFriday 7pm, Cingular stage
Since Jamaicans were picking up radio broadcasts during the Fifties and Sixties from stateside sources such as Miami and New Orleans, the progression of Jamaican music through ska, rock steady, and reggae is grounded in American R&B and soul. Toots Hibbert confirms that American artists such as Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Tina Turner had a huge impact on the music he and his group, the Maytals, made from 1966 on.
"We shouldn't forget about American gospel, as well as the country & western sounds," reminds Hibbert.
Viewing musical progression between neighboring countries as a "form of communication" is a fruitful endeavor as many American acts eventually made reggae an integral facet of their own repertoires. In celebration of this interaction, Hibbert recruited a host of American and British stars to record his latest album with him. Titled True Love, everyone from Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck to Ben Harper, No Doubt, the Roots, and Ryan Adams joins Toots to redo Maytals hits such as "54-46 Was My Number" and "Pressure Drop."
"I am their fan, and they are my fans, so we got together to not only make history, but to teach the youth about the roots of this music. Reggae music is a joyful music. It carries a message, and thus it is a form of culture."
When asked about recent instances of reggae dancehall artists being protested for their incessant homophobic themes, Hibbert doesn't come to their defense.
"The words have to be positive for it to truly be reggae," he stresses. "Everybody has their own way to live, and when an artist fails to realize that, he eventually winds up saying things that he will later regret."
Ever the wise man, look for Toots to be joined during his Austin City Limits Music Festival set by at least one of his American contemporaries.