Reggae icon Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert had a quiet burial amid few mourners on Sunday, Novemver 15, a stark contrast to a bombastic career in which his distinctive voice and infectious smile made millions of fans across the globe and transformed stages into shrines of hero worship.
Hibbert, 77, was buried at National Heroes Park beside Dennis Brown following the intervention of Culture Minister Olivia Grange after a family dispute scuttled interment after his funeral in October.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the efforts to give Hibbert a heroes send-off culminated after his body lay in repose in major townships to allow adoring fans to get a final glimpse of the larger-than-life entertainer credited with giving reggae its name.
With more than 20 persons attending the burial, a few people stood on the outskirts of the burial site to observe the proceedings.
One of them was Michael Allen, who admitted that it was not his original intention to observe the burial but did so nonetheless after reality hit that it would be Hibbert’s last day above ground.
“Toots is a great musician. I [was] sitting and watching CNN the other evening and seeing his music play in New York City and everybody singing to his music,” he said.
Errol Williams, who also witnessed the burial from afar, said he had known the Grammy winner and his family for decades.
“I was the one who used to take the wife to supermarket back and forward for over 20 years.
‘Toots, my bona fide friend, you pass off and gone, but sleep on. You are going to be missed all across the world,” he said.
The ceremony featured musical tributes from well-known members of the local entertainment fraternity, among them saxophonist Dean Fraser, performing arts company Nexxus;,drummer Bongo Herman, and singer Dimario McDowell.
The tributes also included several medleys of Hibbert’s vast musical repertoire.
The act of committal was undertaken by pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle in Kingston, the Rev Merrick ‘Al’ Miller, and Dr Carlene Davis.
Toots, a three-time winner of the Jamaica Festival Song competition, was one of the 10 finalists for 2020 with his entry Rise Up Jamaicans.
His greatest hits spanned five decades, among them Bam Bam, 54-46 (That’s My Number), Monkey Man, Pressure Drop, and Pomps and Pride.
Hibbert died at The University Hospital of the West Indies on September 11 after being infected with the coronavirus.
A week before his death, the prolific hitmaker released his latest album, Got To Be Tough, on the Trojan Jamaica label.
He had been consistently touring with his band, the Maytals, since the early 1970s, when his landmark album Funky Kingston made him a global superstar, opening for groups such as The Who and the Eagles