Johnny Nash, singer of ‘I Can See Clearly Now,’ dies aged 80
Johnny Nash, a singer-songwriter, actor and producer who rose to fame with the hit I Can See Clearly Now, has died in the United States, his son says.
- Nash was in his early 30s when I Can See Clearly Now topped the charts in 1972
- The anthem was a story of overcoming hard times
- It was was covered by artists ranging from Ray Charles, Donny Osmond to Soul Asylum
Nash, who had been in declining health, died on Tuesday local time of natural causes at home in Houston, Johnny Nash Jr told The Associated Press. He was 80.
The son of a chauffeur driver, Nash was in his early 30s when I Can See Clearly Now topped the charts in 1972.
He grew up singing in church and by age 13 had his own show on Houston television.
Within a few years, he had a national following through his appearances on The Arthur Godfrey Show, his hit cover of Doris Day’s A Very Special Love and a collaboration with peers Paul Anka and George Hamilton IV on the wholesome The Teen Commandments (of Love.
In the mid-1960s he was co-running a record company and had become a rare American-born singer of reggae.
He is credited with helping 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 US audiences.
He peaked commercially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he had hits with, I Can See Clearly Now, as well as Hold Me Tight, and You Got Soul.
Nash’s signature song was ‘undiluted inspiration’
Reportedly written by Nash while recovering from cataract surgery, I Can See Clearly Now was a story of overcoming hard times.
Rock critic Robert Christgau called the song, which Nash also produced, “two 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.
Cliff’s version was featured in the 1993 movie Cool Runnings.
“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 the song outlasted Nash’s own.
He rarely made the charts in the years following.
By the 1990s, Nash had essentially left the business.
His last album, Here Again, came out in 1986, although in recent years he was reportedly digitising his old work, some of which was lost in a 2008 fire at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.
Nash was married three times and had two children.