Johnny Nash (August 19, 1940 – October 6, 2020) was an American singer-songwriter, best known for his 1972 classic hit “I Can See Clearly Now”. He was primarily a reggae and pop singer and was one of the first non-Jamaican artists to record reggae music in Kingston.
Johnny Nash was born was born John Lester Nash Jr. in Houston, Texas, and sang in the choir at Progressive New Hope Baptist Church in South Central Houston as a child. From 1953, Johnny Nash sang covers of R&B hits on Matinee, a local variety show on KPRC-TV, and from 1956 he sang on Arthur Godfrey’s local radio and television programs for a seven-years.
After signing with ABC-Paramount, Johnny Nash made his major label debut in 1957 with the single “A Teenager Sings the Blues”, and had his first chart hit in early in 1958 with a cover of Doris Day’s “A Very Special Love”.
Johnny Nash sang the theme song to the cartoon series “The Mighty Hercules“, which ran on various television stations from 1963 to 1966.
In 1965, Johnny Nash had a top five hit in the Billboard R&B chart, with the ballad “Let’s Move and Groove Together.”
That year, Nash and manager Danny Sims moved to Jamaica. Johnny Nash planned to try breaking the local rocksteady sound in the United States. Leter Neville Willoughby, the son of their lawyer, took Johnny to a Rastafarian party where Bob Marley & The Wailing Wailers were performing. Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and Rita Marley later introduced Johnny Nash to the local music scene, and Nash signed all four of them to an exclusive publishing contract for J$50 a week.
In 1967, Johhny Nash, Arthur Jenkins, and Danny Sims started a new label, JAD Records (after their first names), and recorded their albums at Federal Records in Kingston. JAD Records released Johnny Nash’s rocksteady single “Hold Me Tight” in 1968, and it became a top-five hit in both the U.S. and UK. In 1971, Nash scored another UK hit with his cover of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up”.
Johnny Nash’s 1972 reggae-influenced single “I Can See Clearly Now” sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America in November 1972. “I Can See Clearly Now” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 4, 1972, and remained at the top of the chart for four weeks. The “I Can See Clearly Now” album includes four original Bob 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.
JAD Records ceased to exist in 1971, but it was revived in 1997 by Roger Steffens, an American Bob Marley specialist, and Bruno Blum, a French musician and producer, for the “Complete Bob Marley & the Wailers 1967–1972” ten-album series.
In the UK, Johnny Nash’s biggest hit was with the song “Tears on My Pillow” which reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in July 1975 for one week.
After a cover of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” in 1976 and “Let’s Go Dancing” in 1979, Johnny Nash dropped out of sight for many years. He had a brief resurgence in the mid-1980s with the album “Here Again” (1986), which was preceded by a minor UK hit, “Rock Me Baby”.
Younger audiences were introduced to Johnny 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“, and Nash’s original version appeared over the opening scene of John Cusack’s 1997 film, “Grosse Point Blank“.
Johhny Nash died at his home of natural causes in Houston on October 6, 2020, aged 80.
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