Remembering Johnny Nash

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"johnny nash, greatest hits," by badgreeb RECORDS is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

A.L. Haynes | Voice & Viewpoint

Actor, singer, writer, producer, and rancher – international star Johnny Nash was all of these and more. In a lifetime some would find enviable, he travelled the world, gave birth to legends, and became an icon himself, all before the age of 40.

Born in Houston, Texas in 1940, John Lester Nash Jr. was known as a well-mannered but shy child with a beautiful singing voice. When he was 13, a local businessman arranged an audition for a TV program. For the following three years, Johnny Nash sang on the show as a regular, earning a higher annual salary than his father. His first single, A Teenager Sings the Blues, was released when he was 16 years old. His second single, A Very Special Love, made it to 23 on the U.S. charts.

In 1959 and 1960, he tried his hand at acting in the films Take a Giant Step and Key Witness, but decided he preferred music. Unfortunately, he began to lose popularity during the rock-and-roll craze of the 1960s.

In 1965, Nash switched gears again, forming a record label with his manager and a third partner, and relocating to Jamaica in 1967. In Jamaica, the label, JAD, promptly signed a publishing deal with Bob Marley, as well as a recording contract with his group, the Wailers. Nash also had four UK Top Ten hits over the next few years, including You Got Soul, Hold Me Tight, and Tears on My Pillow. Hold Me Tight got into the US Top Ten, as well, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to rekindle Nash’s career in his home country.

In 1970, Nash briefly returned to film, writing the soundtrack for and acting in Love is Not A Game, a disappointing Swedish movie released in 1971. In 1972, Nash’s most famous album, I Can See Clearly Now, was released and featured four tracks written by Marley (not the title track). This was the album that made Nash a household name in the USA, as well as much of the world. For Nash, it was too little, too late.

In 1974, Johnny Nash entered semi-retirement. Opting for a quieter life, he returned to Houston, married his third wife, and bought a ranch. In 1986, he released a final album, entitled Here Again. In 1993, he opened the Johnny Nash Indoor Arena, holding rodeos for the Black community and financing youth who might never see a real horse otherwise. The rodeos ended in 2002.

Nash’s family announced to the Associated Press that he passed on October 6, 2020 from natural causes. He was 80 years old. He is survived by his wife and two children.

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