American Pop Reggae Singer Johnny Nash Dies at 80

Johnny Nash
Johnny Nash
Singer remembered for hit single, “I Can See Clearly Now

by Howard Campbell

HOUSTON – Johnny Nash, who died in his native Houston, Texas on October 6 at age 80, was the first American singer to embrace Jamaican music and take it to a global audience.

Nash recorded several songs written by a struggling singer/songwriter named Bob Marley during the 1960s when he was living in Jamaica.

Two of those songs, Stir it Up and Guava Jelly, were massive hits for Nash who moved to Jamaica in the early 1960s with his manager and business partner, Danny Sims.

They met Marley at a ‘groundation’ (Rastafarian meeting) in Kingston during the mid-1960s. The Texas-born Nash recorded a popular rocksteady album called Hold Me Tight in 1968 and developed a strong following in Europe.

By the early 1970s, Nash had a massive following on that continent. That expanded to the United States in 1972 when he topped the Billboard pop chart for four weeks with I Can See Clearly Now.

The Wailers (Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston) were opening act for Nash on his winter tour of Britain in 1971.

In a 2012 interview with the Jamaica Observer, Marley archivist Roger Steffens credited Nash and Sims for refining the trio’s bad boy image.

“Their training brought Bob and Peter up to high international standards in both studio and stagecraft. Bob received his first serious money from publishing royalties for songs of his that Johnny Nash turned into international hit records,” Steffens said.


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