Johnny Nash, the singer, songwriter, and producer best known for the legendary hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” has died at the age of 80. Nash’s son, Johnny Nash Jr. confirmed he died of natural causes in his home in Houston on Tuesday.
Born John Lester Nash Jr. on August 19, 1940, in Houston’s historic Third Ward neighborhood, Nash became one of the first non-Jamaican singers to record reggae music in Kingston, Jamaica. Nash also helped launch the career of his friend Bob Marley.
As a teenager in the 1950s, Nash gained notoriety when he covered the popular song, “Darn That Dream.” His most beloved hit “I Can See Clearly Now” topped the charts in 1972 when Nash was 30 years old. In the late ’60s and ’70s, he also scored hits such as “You Got Soul” and “Hold Me Tight.”
On Nash’s signature song, “I Can See Clearly Now,” Billboard reports:
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.
Though it was undoubtedly a hit, the song was snubbed by Grammy judges.
“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 told The Gleaner in 1998. “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.”
Still, “I Can See Clearly Now” has been covered by the likes of Ray Charles, Soul Asylum, Donny Osmond, and Jimmy Cliff.
Nash and his son ran a recording studio called Nashco Music. Nash is also survived by his daughter Monica and his wife, Carli Nash. Rest in power, Johnny Nash.