Monday, October 29, 2007

Toots his own horn

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2007 at 7:55 PM

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REGGAE LEGEND TOOTS AT VARIETY PLAYHOUSE THURSDAY: Inventing reggae apparently has its perks.

(photo by Joeff Davis)

Despite his iconic voice, a catalog of classics and the fact that he's credited with coining the word "reggae" in 1968, Frederick "Toots" Hibbert never achieved the commercial success of fellow Jamaican Bob Marley. Nevertheless, Toots still developed a great reputation in this country for rollicking live performances like the one he gave at the Variety Playhouse last Thursday.

On stage, Toots was James Brown-esque -- spinning, shimmying and pumping his fists in time with the music and lighting. Nearly every song, from "Pressure Drop" to his cover of John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads," ended up exploding into frenzy, with an age-defying Toots flickering around at the center of it all. The only time Toots slowed down was to remove fans from the stage, remove fans' undergarments from the stage, and to explain (with song) that he, not Marley, invented reggae.

And in a winking bit of late-career bluster, he responded to a song request for his early hit "54-46" by forcefully shouting, "Shut up! Shut up! I'm gonna play a song from my new CD, and you're gonna enjoy it!" He played "54-46" two songs later.

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