Our top 10 Toots and The Maytals songs list digs deep into the music of a Jamaican band famed for its ska and rocksteady sound. Toots and The Maytals were founded in the 1960s by the late Toots Hibbert. Born in Jamaica, Toots Hibbert was a singer from a young age. Initially, he would sing in a church choir, where he honed his singing skills. After relocating to Kingston, Jamaica, he met Raleigh and Jerry, with whom he teamed up to form a trio under the moniker The Maytals.
In the 1960s, The Maytals was a successful act famed for its harmonious singing. Toots, Raleigh, and Jerry vocals were backed by The Skatalites, establishing themselves as a formidable vocal group. Not even The Wailers would outdo The Maytals’ at this time. The band went on to win the 1966 Jamaican Independence Festival Popular Song Competition with their hit “Bam Bam.” “Bam Bam” was quite a huge song having it covered by Sister Nancy and Yellowman.
However, the fast-rising vocal group’s success was interrupted when Toots was jailed for a year and a half, accused of possessing marijuana. Raleigh and Jerry were loyal to the band, having them wait on their friend to get out of jail to continue the band’s musical pursuits. Before the band’s fame was washed away, Toots got out of jail inspired to make The Maytals a huge success. His time in jail inspired him to pen several reputable songs.
Toots is referred to by many as one of the reggae pioneers. After he came out of jail, The Maytals released “Do The Reggay,” which was a success. “Do The Reggae” was the number one song to use the term “Reggae,” hence giving rise to the development of the greatest music genre in Jamaica. The band would later achieve mainstream success and international fame with the release of the reggae hit “Monkey Man.”
After the success of “Monkey Man,” the band signed with Island Records. Their dynamic yet sensational music saw the band become one of the biggest talents in Jamaica. The band changed its name from the Maytals to Toots and The Maytals in 1972. Toots’ vocals, which were compared to Otis Redding. Many have regarded him as the wheel behind the band’s success.
The band went on tour to promote its music, sharing arenas with other reputable acts, including The Eagles, The Who, Linda Ronstadt, and Jackson Browne. Toots and The Maytals were up to the challenge of setting a world record for the fastest album release. Despite making it happen in just twenty-four hours, the record wasn’t considered. The management failed to give Guinness Book of World Records prior notification of the forthcoming project.
Sadly, Toots and The Maytals disbanded after the release of Knock Out! (1981). After the band split, Toots continued his presence in the music scene as a solo artist. However, Toots and The Maytals would come together again in the early ’90s. Even though the band had a new lineup, Toots and The Maytals maintained its influence, thanks to consistency in its sound.
The band has continued to release music while entertaining fans with its best songs of all time, most of which were released back in the twentieth century. Toots and The Maytals retain the record of most number one hits in its motherland Jamaica. On the global platform, Toots and The Maytals have been nominated several times for Grammy Awards, winning several accolades. The band’s latest win was a Grammy for the Best Reggae album for Got To Be Tough in 2020.
Sadly, with the death of the band’s founder Toots Hibbert, the band has barely continued performing. This is despite the remaining members mentioning that the band would carry on as The Maytals, a tribute band to its late frontman Toots Hibbert. With the family of Toots issuing the remaining members an order barring them from using the moniker The Maytals, we might not see the band sing together anymore. Here are the best Toots and The Maytals songs from the band’s twenty-four studio albums.
#10 – Do The Reggay
Ushering us to the top 10 Toots and The Maytals songs is the reggae hit “Do The Reggae.” Written by the band’s frontman Toots Hibbert, “Do The Reggay” was the first song to use the name “reggae.” This has seen the song credited to have given rise to the reggae music genre. Toots revealed in an interview that the song used the word to allude to an unkempt person.
#9- Reggae Got Soul
“Reggae Got Soul” is a song penned by Toots Hibbert and Warwick Lyn. The song was initially released on the band’s album Reggae Got Soul (1976). However, the song was remade two times by Toots and The Maytals in their album True Love (2004). One of the remade versions features reggae musician Gentleman. The other version features Ken Boothe and Marcia Griffiths. Toots retains his soulful vocals in both of the remakes. True Love (2004) went on to win the 2005 Grammys in the Best Reggae Album category. Other artists nominated for the award were Jimmy Cliff, Steel Pulse, and Sly and Robbie.
#8- Pressure Drop
As earlier mentioned, Toots’ time in jail inspired him to pen several songs, which would later become some of the best Toots and The Maytals releases. “Pressure Drop” is one of these songs. Its release aided in launching the band’s international career. More people learned about this inspirational Jamaican band, and the reggae genre after the song was featured on the crime movie The Harder They Come. Inspired by a sense of injustice, Toots penned this song whose lyrics allude to revenge. “Pressure Drops” has been covered by many artists, including Keith Richards, Robert Palmer, The Clash, and The Specials.
#7- Time Tough
Funky Kingston (1973) finds Toots and The Maytals giving an authentic reflection of Jamaica. Most of the songs on the album allude to challenges in the nation. However, Toots and The Maytals also find a reason to be happy, as depicted by some songs despite the hardships they have to face. “Tough Time” depicts the distress of a member of the Jamaican working-class. With inflation hitting hard, the worker’s pay doesn’t seem to cover his needs. The song features a stirring guitar solo after the third verse.
#6- Beautiful Woman
Coming in at number six is the song “Beautiful Woman.” Before breaking up in the early ’80s, Toots and The Maytals released the album Knock Out! (1981), home to our number six song. “Beautiful Woman” feels catchy thanks to perfectly executed vocals and reggae tune. The song ascended to the peak position on the New Zealand charts.
#5- Take Me Home, Country Roads
While most of the best Toots and The Maytals songs are original releases, the band also made awe-inspiring covers. One of their best covers is “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” originally released by John Denver. Their cover version was featured on their album In the Dark (1974). Toots unbridles his vocal capabilities in this song while The Maytals sneaks some reggae backbeats into the song’s country tune. The band spiced up its cover with some sleek lyrics substitutions such as tweaking “West Virginia” to “West Jamaica.”
#4- Monkey Man
“Monkey Man” is one of Toots and The Maytals’ hits to feature on the UK Singles Chart. The song’s lyrics are penned by Toots Hibbert, with the lyrics alluding to a girl who gets to fall for another guy over Toots. During the same year of the song’s release, The Rolling Stones released their version of “Monkey Man.” However, don’t get this twisted. The two songs differ in lyrics and meaning. The Rolling Stones’ version is a tribute to Mario Scifano, who the band had met in a movie. “Monkey Man” by the Toots and The Maytals has been covered by many artists, including Amy Winehouse, Reel Big Fish, The Specials, Los Pericos, and The Dualers.
#3- Funky Kingston
Coming in at number three is the title track to the band’s album Funky Kingston (1973). The song is built around a single-chord bassline. You ought to love how the song strikes a balance between reggae and funk vibes. Toots’ vocals in this song closely resemble Otis Redding. “Funky Kingston” has its lyrics allude to the love of the band country Jamaica and the members’ religion.
#2- Louie Louie
“Louie Louie” features on the list of the most famous rhythm and blues songs composed by Richard Berry in the mid- ’50s. The song lyrics allude to a narrative by a Jamaican sailor who sails back to the island to meet his fiancée. Toots and The Maytals gave this song a reggae feel, making their cover one of their best releases. Robin Roberts, The Kingsmen, The Beach Boys, Otis Redding, The Kinks, The Sandpipers, Travis Wammack, Mongo Santamaria, and The Troggs also covered “Louie Louie.”
#1- 54-46 That’s My Number
Number one on our top 10 Toots and The Maytals songs is the hit “54-46 That’s My Number.” Credit to this release that the band gained mainstream success. Toots was inspired to pen the lyrics to this song when he was in prison, serving his eighteen-month term for possession of marijuana. “54-46 That’s My Number” samples The Ethiopians’ “Train to Skaville.” The song is one of Toots and The Maytals’ most covered songs. Artists who have covered/sampled the song include Aswad, Yellowman, Major Lazer, Vanilla Ice, and Fighting Gravity.
Top 10 Toots And The Maytals Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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