Johnny Nash, whose song I Can See Clearly Now topped the charts in 1972, has died.
The singer and songwriter passed away from natural causes in his hometown of Houston, Texas, his son, Johnny Nash Jr., told The Associated Press.
He was 80.
Nash’s career began in the 1950s covering standards and by the mid-60s, he was co-running a record company.
He was among the first artists to bring Jamaican reggae to US audiences and he also helped launch the career of his good friend Bob Marley.
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, which remains his signature song.
The upbeat track with its pop-reggae groove was reportedly written by Nash as he recovered from cataract surgery.
The song promised a ‘bright, bright sunshiny day’ and had a gospel-style exclamation midway in ‘Look straight ahead, nothing but blue skies!’
The rock critic Robert Christgau would call the song, which Nash also produced, ‘2 minutes and 48 seconds of undiluted inspiration.’
‘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 the film 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.
In 1998, he told The Gleaner during a visit to Jamaica that it was ‘difficult to develop major music projects’ without touring and promoting and that he preferred to be with his family.
‘I think I’ve achieved gratification in terms of the people I’ve had the chance to meet. I never won the Grammy, but I don’t put my faith in things of that nature,’ he said.
‘A lifetime body of work I can be proud of is more important to me. And the special folksy blend to the music I make, that´s what it is all about.’
Nash was married three times and had two children and lived with his family on a ranch in Houston, where for years he also managed rodeo shows at the Johnny Nash Indoor Arena.
In addition to his son, he is survived by daughter Monica and wife Carli Nash.