Johnny Nash, a singer-songwriter, actor and producer who rose from pop crooner to early reggae star to the creator and performer of the million-selling anthem “I Can See Clearly Now,” died Oct. 6, his son said.
Nash, who had been in declining health, died of natural causes at home in Houston, the city of his birth, his son, Johnny Nash Jr., told The Associated Press. He was 80.
Nash was in his early 30s when “I Can See Clearly Now” topped the charts in 1972 and he had lived several show business lives. In the mid-1950s, he was a teenager covering “Darn That Dream” and other standards, his light tenor likened to the voice of Johnny Mathis. A decade later, he was co-running a record company, had become a rare American-born singer of reggae and helped launch the career of his friend Bob Marley.
Nash praised “the vibes of this little island” when speaking of Jamaica, and he was among the ﬁrst artists to bring reggae to U.S. audiences. He peaked commercially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he had hits with “Hold Me Tight,” “You Got Soul,” an early version of Marley’s “Stir It Up” and “I Can See Clearly Now,” still his signature song.
Reportedly written by Nash while recovering from cataract surgery, “I Can See Clearly Now” was a story of overcoming hard times that itself raised the spirits of countless listeners, with its swelling pop-reggae groove, promise of a “bright, bright sunshiny day” and Nash’s gospel-styled exclamation midway, “Look straight ahead, nothing but blue skies!”, a backing chorus lifting the words into the heavens.
Rare American-born singer of reggae who helped launch the career of his friend Bob Marley, his signature song was called “2 minutes and 48 seconds of undiluted inspiration.”
The rock critic Robert Christgau would call the song, which Nash also produced,”2 minutes and 48 seconds of undiluted inspiration.”
Although overlooked by Grammys judges,”I Can See Clearly Now” was covered by artists ranging from Ray Charles and Donny Osmond to Soul Asylum and Jimmy Cliff, whose version was featured in the 1993 movie”Cool Runnings.” It also turned up everywhere from”Thelma and Louise” to a Windex commercial, and in recent years was often referred to on websites about cataract procedures.
“I feel that music is universal. Music is for the ears and not the age,” Nash told Cameron Crowe, then writing for Zoo World Magazine, in 1973.”There are some people who say that they hate music. I’ve run into a few, but I’m not sure I believe them.”
The fame of”I Can See Clearly Now” outlasted Nash’s own. He rarely made the charts in the years following, even as he released such albums as”Tears On My Pillow” and”Celebrate Life,” and by the 1990s had essentially left the business.