Highlights

  • Johnny Nash was an American but lived and worked in Jamaica at a time
  • He worked with the Wailers in Jamaica
  • His best-known hit is “I can see clearly now” which was also sung by Jimmy Cliff
  • Johnny Nash was an award-winning actor too

 

Singer-songwriter Johnny Nash has died at the age of 80. Nash, a Houston-native, had been in declining health in recent months.

He is best known for his hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” which he wrote and recorded. The record is a Billboard Hot 100 Chart #1 hit song.

Nash is also known for his reggae music. He was one of the first non-Jamaican singers to record reggae music in Kingston, Jamaica, according to his website.

Nash died Tuesday afternoon at his home in Houston.

He is survived by his wife Carli and son Johnny.

Life and career

Born in Houston, Texas, United States, John Lester Nash Jr. (August 19, 1940 – October 6, 2020) sang in the choir at Progressive New Hope Baptist Church in South Central Houston as a child. Beginning in 1953, Nash sang covers of R&B hits on Matinee, a local variety show on KPRC-TV. Beginning in 1956, Nash sang on Arthur Godfrey’s radio and television programs for a seven year period.

Signing with ABC-Paramount, Nash made his major label debut in 1957 with the single “A Teenager Sings the Blues.” Nash had his first chart hit in early 1958 with a cover of Doris Day’s “A Very Special Love.”

Award-winning actor

Johnny Nash also enjoyed success as an actor. He has four acting credits in film and television. In 1959, he had the lead role as Spencer Scott in Take a Giant Step, directed by Philip Leacock, one of the first black family films written by a black writer. Nash won a Silver Sail Award for his performance from the Locarno International Film Festival.

In 1960 he appeared as “Apple” alongside Dennis Hopper in the crime drama Key Witness. In 1971, he played Robert in the Swedish romance Vill så gärna tro.

Composer

Nash was also a composer for the Swedish romance film Vill så gärna tro (1971) in which he portrayed Robert. The movie soundtrack, partly instrumental reggae with strings, was co-composed by Bob Marley and arranged by Fred Jordan.

Jamaica sojourn

In 1965, Nash had a top five hit in the US Billboard R&B chart, the ballad “Let’s Move and Groove Together.” That year, he and Sims moved to Jamaica. Their lawyer Newton Willoughby was the father of Jamaican radio host Neville Willoughby. After selling off his old entertainment assets in New York, Sims opened a new music publishing business in Jamaica, Cayman Music. Nash planned to try breaking the local rocksteady sound in the United States. Around

 Work with the Wailers

1966 or 1967, Neville Willoughby took Nash to a Rastafarian party where Bob Marley & The Wailing Wailers were performing. Members Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and Rita Marley introduced Nash to the local music scene. Nash signed all four to an exclusive publishing contract with Cayman Music for J$50 a week.

In 1967, Nash, Arthur Jenkins, and Sims collaborated to create a new record label, JAD Records, named after their first names Johnny, Arthur, and Danny, and recorded their albums at Federal Records in Kingston. JAD released Nash’s rocksteady single “Hold Me Tight” in 1968; it became a top-five hit in both the U.S. and UK. In 1971, Nash scored another UK hit with his cover of Marley’s “Stir It Up”.

He gave Bob Marley a big break by recording Marley’s songs, most notably “stir it up” and “guava jelly”

Marley toured with Nash as a song writer after Nash “rescued” Marley from working the fork lift as a midnight worker in a Detroit automobile factory after Marley relocated to US after the initial success of the Wailers faltered in Jamaica (Marley captures his Detroit experience in the song “night shift”)

It was after the Nash gig that Marley had enough capital and re-dedication to reunite with the Wailers and to travel to London and then make a historic connection with Chris Blackwell.

Blackwell promoted “Concrete Jungle” as a rock album and notably remixed “stir it up” to include a well received guitar riff & solo (the guitar solo was a surprise to the Wailers).

I can see clearly now

 

Nash’s 1972 reggae influenced single “I Can See Clearly Now” sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in November 1972. “I Can See Clearly Now” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 4, 1972, and remained atop the chart for four weeks, and also spent the same four weeks atop the adult contemporary chart. The I Can See Clearly Now album includes four original Marley compositions published by JAD: “Guava Jelly”, “Comma Comma”, “You Poured Sugar On Me”, and the follow-up hit “Stir It Up”. “There Are More Questions Than Answers” was a third hit single taken from the album.

Off and on

After a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” in 1976 and “Let’s Go Dancing” in 1979, for many years Nash seemed to have dropped out of sight, with the exception of a brief resurgence in the mid-1980s with the album Here Again (1986), which was preceded by the minor UK hit, “Rock Me Baby.” Younger audiences were introduced to Nash’s music with the appearance of Jimmy Cliff’s cover of “I Can See Clearly Now” in Disney’s 1993 hit film Cool Runnings.

In May 2006, Nash was singing again at SugarHill Recording Studios and at Tierra Studios in his native Houston. Working with SugarHill chief engineer Andy Bradley and Tierra Studios’ grammy-winning Randy Miller, he began the work of transferring analogue tapes of his songs from the 1970s and 1980s to Pro Tools digital format.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Nash among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.

May his soul rest in peace!

NP/Tony Ekata/Wikipedia

 

What do you find interesting about Johnny Nash and which of his tracks is your favourite? Please tell us in the COMMENTS box below.

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