Reggae legend Toots Hibbert kicked off an overseas tour in January 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. His plan was to give a little history lesson for reggae fans during his tour through Florida, Virginia and New York.
The band celebrated the 51st anniversary of their song, “Do The Reggae” — which marked the very first use of the term “reggae” to describe the bass-heavy sound that became a global force. Toots claims he has never been given proper credit for creating the word that would become Jamaica’s most famous genre. He planned to change that on this tour.
“I don’t brag about myself, people call me great, but I don’t like to talk about myself. People around the world know is we [The Maytals] create the word reggae. So is time people in Jamaica tek stock an’ do the same,” he said. Toots does not exactly recall how he came up with the name reggae, but said it was based on “streggae,” a Jamaican slang for a loose woman.
The song helped establish Toots and The Maytals as one of Jamaica’s top acts abroad. “Do The Reggae” became popular throughout Europe and Australia, but never caught on in Jamaica where Toots and The Maytals are known for Independence Festival songs like “Bam Bam” and “Sweet and Dandy.”
Reggae historians have differed on the origins of reggae for decades, though most agree the sound began changing in 1968 from the faster-paced rocksteady. Some argue that Larry and Alvin’s “Nanny Goat,” produced by Clement “Coxson” Dodd, counts as the first reggae song.