Johnny Nash, Singer of ‘I Can See Clearly Now,’ Dies at 80

Johnny Nash, a singer-songwriter, actor and producer who rose from pop crooner to early reggae star to the creator and performer of the million-selling anthem “I Can See Clearly Now,” died Tuesday, his son said.

Nash, who had been in declining health, died of natural causes at home in Houston, the city of his birth, his son, Johnny Nash Jr., told The Associated Press. He was 80.

Nash was in his early 30s when “I Can See Clearly Now” topped the charts in 1972 and he had lived several show business lives. In the mid-1950s, he was a teenager covering “Darn That Dream” and other standards, his light tenor likened to the voice of Johnny Mathis. A decade later, he was co-running a record company, had become a rare American-born singer of reggae and helped 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 U.S. audiences. 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,” still his signature song.

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.

The rock critic Robert Christgau would call the song, which Nash also produced, “2 minutes and 48 seconds of undiluted inspiration.”

He charted 11 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including a pair of top 10s: “Hold Me Tight” in 1968 and the No. 1 “I Can See Clearly Now” in 1972. The latter spent four weeks atop the list. “Clearly” also led the Adult Contemporary Songs airplay chart for a month. He also claimed nine hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, one of which reached the top 10: “Let’s Move & Groove (Together),” a No. 9-peaking hit in 1965.

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, whose version was featured in the 1993 movie “Cool Runnings.” It also turned up everywhere from “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. His last album, “Here Again,” came out in 1986, although in recent years he was reportedly digitizing 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. He had loved riding horses since childhood and as an adult 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.

John Lester Nash Jr., whose father was a chauffeur, 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).” He also had roles in the films “Take a Giant Step,” in which he starred as a high school student rebelling against how the Civil War is taught, and “Key Witness,” a crime drama starring Dennis Hopper and Jeffrey Hunter.

His career faded during the first half of the 1960s, but he found a new sound, and renewed success, in the mid-60s after having a rhythm and blues hit with “Let’s Move and Groove Together” and meeting Marley and fellow Wailers Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston during a visit to Jamaica. Over the next few years their careers would be closely aligned.

Nash convinced his manager and business partner Danny Sims, with whom he formed JAD Records, to sign up Marley and the Wailers, who recorded “Reggae On Broadway” and dozens of other songs for JAD. Nash brought Marley to London in the early 1970s when Nash was the bigger star internationally and with Marley gave an impromptu concert at a local boys school. Nash’s covers of “Stir It Up” and “Guava Jelly” helped expose Marley’s writing to a general audience. The two also collaborated on the ballad “You Poured Sugar On Me,” which appeared on the “I Can See Clearly Now” album.

After the 1980s, Nash became a mystery to fans and former colleagues as he stopped recording and performing and rarely spoke to the press or anyone in the music industry. In 1973, he told Crowe that he anticipated years of hard work: “What I want to do is be a part of this business and to express myself and get some kind of acceptance by making people happy.”

A quarter century later, he explained to 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 added. “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.”

Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield.

Is Lana Del Rey’s Mesh Mask Effective? A Doctor Weighs In… And Cautions Against ‘Mask Shaming’

Lana Del Rey was met with heavy backlash over the weekend when she shared a series of photos and videos on Instagram, attending a book signing in Los Angeles and greeting a large crowd of fans while wearing what appeared to be a mesh, netted mask. Critics called out the star for putting fans at risk with a sheer mask that does not protect others from coronavirus exposure — but is there any way the face covering could be effective?

To figure out how safe Del Rey’s mask is (or isn’t), Billboard chatted with Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a medical educator at the University of California, San Francisco, who specializes in treating infectious diseases but is not directly familiar with the specific mask the singer/songwriter wore over the weekend. “I am not very confident that it would prevent any spread of COVID,” he said, adding, “It looks interesting, but you don’t need to be a smart virus to get through that mesh. You could be the dumbest virus and it would be easy to get through that mesh.”

Chin-Hong compared Del Rey to Lady Gaga, who “is still able to be fashionable and have an effective mask”; the Chromatica star sported a number of stylish face coverings at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards in August, all of which effectively shielded her mouth and nose without sacrificing the eye-catching flair that is characteristically Gaga.

“The holes are so big in the mesh that you might as well be wearing nothing,” Chin-Hong continued of Del Rey’s blingy mask. “I can draw a mask on my face with a magic marker and it would have the same efficiency as a mesh mask.”

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While it appeared that Del Rey wore only the mesh mask during the book signing, her defenders wondered if she might have a clear protective layer under the bling that went undetected in her Instagram pics. Chin-Hong is aware of one FDA-approved option — the ClearMask — for those needing to read lips or see others’ facial expressions, but “The clear part is just around the mouth, because plastic blocks the virus,” he explained, “so you can still breathe through fabric from the nose.”

It’s clear that mesh masks alone don’t work in preventing the spread of coronavirus, so what does? “There’s a hierarchy of masks,” Chin-Hong said. “The Tesla of masks is the N95, then you get the surgical masks that we use in the hospital, then you get the cloth coverings that people wear normally and on the streets, then you have the neck gaiters that you can buy from North Face.”

While the N95 masks are at the top of the list, the expert said they are not necessary in everyday life, just in medical and high-risk situations. “For most people, wearing a regular cloth mask is good enough,” he said.

Besides Del Rey’s mesh mask, Chin-Hong also does not recommend masks with filtered valves. “They’re meant to prevent the wearer from getting something because the filter is one-way, so you breathe in one way and it filters it, but when you breathe out, it doesn’t filter it,” he explained. “So if you have COVID and wore it, you would be spreading COVID to everyone you thought you would be protecting, so that’s a scary mask.”

However, if you see someone wearing an ineffective face covering, Chin-Hong does not believe “mask shaming” is the way to change behavior.

“Shaming is the worst thing you can do, because it makes somebody defensive,” he said. “In fact, if somebody said, ‘Hey, Lana, I wonder why you wore that mesh mask’ — and said it in a nice, kind, curious way — she might say, ‘Oh, I didn’t really know. You’re right, maybe this isn’t the best mask.’ Then Lana Del Rey could be the next Lady Gaga and go out there and promote masks.”

Coronavirus

Viral Fleetwood Mac Boarder Gets a Cranberry Red Truck Filled With Cran-Raspberry Cartons

Nathan Apodaca, otherwise known on TikTok as @420doggface208, has a new ride when he bumps Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and drinks straight out of an Ocean Spray Cran-Raspberry juice carton.

Ocean Spray gifted their No. 1 customer with his own cranberry red truck that comes with their product in every compartment possible today (Oct. 6) after his longboarding TikTok went viral with nearly 25 million views to date. He’s already recreated his seemingly effortless masterpiece on the short video platform while cruising in his new set of wheels.

The gifted vehicle completes a full-circle moment for the 37-year-old star, who goes by Doggface in memoriam of Nate Dogg: In an interview with The Los Angeles Times on Oct. 2, Apodaca said he was longboarding to work after his car battery died.

Now he got the classic 1977 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit on heavy rotation again. “Dreams” gained 8.47 million on-demand streams in the U.S. last week, making for the song’s largest streaming week ever.

See the behind-the-scenes video Apodaca posted of his Ocean Spray present below.

Shepard Fairey and FLOOD Magazine Team Up for Exclusive Prints to Help Music Venues

In a bid to assist independent venues during the pandemic, renowned street artist Shepard Fairey has designed three special covers for FLOOD Magazine’s 160-page Action Issue. Proceeds from print sales of the magazine will benefit the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA).

“I was honored to create this issue of FLOOD’s cover art, which is meant to inspire action and hope for the future. I’ve been a longtime fan of the magazine, and in the spirit of making the future, I also felt it was important to help #SaveOurStages by donating to the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund,” said Fairey in a release.

One of the three covers will be sold as a special limited edition art print autographed by Fairey. Proceeds from the print will also benefit NIVA.

NIVA was formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered the majority of music venues since mid-March. The non-profit organization’s Emergency Relief Fund will go to independent music venues struggling to make it through nationwide shutdowns.

“We are grateful to everyone at FLOOD and Shepard Fairey for helping to #SaveOurStages. The money being raised for the NIVA Emergency Relief Fund will bring much-needed support to independent venues and promoters that are in dire positions,” said NIVA co-founder and executive director Rev. Moose. “A world without independent live events is one that would lack in creativity, diversity, and new perspectives, all things that FLOOD has prioritized for years.”

The special issue was created in partnership with guests editors and artists including Fairey, H.E.R., Cordae, David Byrne, Vic Mensa, Michael Stipe, Patti Smith, Nicholas Braun, Flaming Lips, Rain Phoenix, Dem Jointz, Dinner Party (Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder, Terrace Martin), Danny Clinch, Michael Lavine and more.

The issue additionally includes conversations with organizations like Rock The Vote and HeadCount about 30 years of mobilizing voter registration through the power of music, as well as with artists and venue owners across the country.

“As independent-culture focused journalists, it is important to tell the stories that may not be told by mainstream media, resulting in a large part of the country remaining unaware of the indelible contributions many creators in the arts are making in an attempt to help make things better in their communities, raise awareness on troubling issues, and a myriad of national and global causes in between,” said FLOOD Magazine co-publisher and editorial director Randy Bookasta in a release.

Fairey added: “Music is the heartbeat of my work, it inspires me daily both sonically and lyrically. We can all remember the shows that shaped us, and the spaces where we experienced them, and I urge you to do what you can to support our independent venues so that many more generations can find their space too. Thanks for caring, and get your copy of FLOOD NOW!”

UTA Hires Music Agents Jeffrey Hasson & Matt Meyer

Paradigm music agents Jeffrey Hasson and Matt Meyer have crossed over to UTA, it was announced Tuesday (Oct. 6).

Hasson, who will be part of the agency’s leadership team out of the Nashville office, has worked with artists including Young The Giant, Tori Kelly, Surfaces, Jamey Johnson, Dashboard Confessional, Dayglow, Blues Traveler, Coin and Ruston Kelly. He got his start in 2005 at Monterey Peninsula Artists.

The Los Angeles-based Meyer, who is credited with developing Halsey from an opening act to a festival and arena headliner, has also worked with Machine Gun Kelly, Lil Dicky, Don Toliver, Tinashe, Yungblud, Cash Cash, Eden and The Knocks. At age 23 he was hired as an agent at dance music agency AM Only, which was subsequently acquired by Paradigm.

Both agents have been recognized by multiple publications as rising stars in their field, with Hasson named to Billboard’s 40 Under 40 list in 2017 and Meyer included on The Hollywood Reporter’s Next Gen list last year.

Hasson and Meyer are just the latest big-name hires at UTA, which nabbed powerhouse music agent Samantha Kirby Yoh from WME back in September to serve as co-head of music with David Zedeck.

Since controversially laying off more than 200 employees and instituting drastic pay cuts early in the pandemic, Paradigm has been shedding key agents in its music division, including Dave Kaplan and Randall Uritsky, both of whom decamped for ICM in May along with clients including The Black Keys, Father John Misty and De La Soul. In September, five former Paradigm staffers — Marshall Betts, Avery McTaggart, Amy Davidman, Ryan Craven and Devin Landau — formed the independent agency TBA, in the process luring Paradigm clients including The War on Drugs, Courtney Barnett, Chvrches, Purity Ring and Hot Chip to the new shop. Also last month, former Paradigm agents Patrick McAuliff and Phil Egenthal formed the Mint Talent Agency with ex-WME agent C. J. Strock., bringing along former Paradigm colleagues Michael Morris and Ryan Owens.

“I’m so excited to join the UTA team, and a music department with such great momentum. The company’s perseverance and navigation through these trying times has been very admirable,” said Hasson. “I can’t wait to share all of UTA’s incredible cross-department resources with my clients to help elevate their business.”

“I am grateful to be joining the team at UTA during a time when they have showcased real innovation and done amazing work on behalf of their clients,” added Meyer. “Everyone has been extremely supportive of this next chapter in my career and I am looking forward to collaborating with my new colleagues to both expand my clients’ passions outside of music and creating a great touring business.”

Zedeck added, “Jeffrey and Matt have impeccable track records of identifying and developing emerging artists and creating unique opportunities for their clients. Jeffrey is well-respected within the Nashville music community, and Matt has his finger firmly on the pulse for the next generation of hitmakers. We are thrilled to welcome both of them to our team.”

UTA’s current music clients include deadmau5, Bad Bunny, the Jonas Brothers, Bebe Rexha, YG, Common, Tyga and Offset, among others.

Megan Thee Stallion Called Out Kentucky Attorney General on ‘SNL’ & He Thinks It’s ‘Disgusting’

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron is criticizing Megan Thee Stallion’s Saturday Night Live performance, which called out his handling of the Breonna Taylor case.

While making her debut as the SNL musical guest for the season 46 opener on Saturday, the Houston rapper played a snippet of activist Tamika Mallory’s objection of Cameron’s actions during her rendition of “Savage.” The 34-year-old Republican, who is the first African-American attorney general of Kentucky, claimed the cops involved in the fatal shooting of the 26-year-old EMT were “justified” in their actions. His presentation of the case led a grand jury to decide not to indict a single officer in direct connection to Taylor’s killing.

“Daniel Cameron is no different than the sellout negroes that sold our people into slavery,” Mallory said in the audio while her words flashed on the black-and-white screen, before Megan pleaded, “We need to protect our Black women and love our Black women ’cause at the end of the day, we need our Black women.”

Cameron reacted to Megan’s performance during an appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends on Tuesday (Oct. 6), saying her statements exposed the “intolerance” and “hypocrisy” of the left.

“Let me just say, I agree that we need to love and protect our Black women. There’s no question about that. But the fact that someone would get on national television and make disparaging comments about me because I’m simply trying to do my job is disgusting,” Cameron said during the Fox News segment. “At the end of the day, my responsibility is to provide facts and truth and represent and stand up for justice. I think what you saw there, in that display, is someone who instead wants to fashion facts to a narrative. That narrative is simply not true in this particular case with Ms. Taylor. Again, it is a tragedy what happened to her.”

The attorneys for Taylor requested a new special prosecutor to reopen her case in an open letter this week, which had received almost 9,000 signatures by Tuesday afternoon, while the FBI civil rights investigation is still ongoing. The Kentucky AG claims the nationwide criticism he’s facing, especially from the “Don’t Stop” rapper’s SNL performance, is something he’s constantly experienced as a Black Republican.

“The fact that a celebrity that I’ve never met before wants to make those sorts of statements…. They don’t hurt me, but what it does, it exposes the type of intolerance that people, and the hypocrisy, because obviously, people preach about being tolerant,” he continued. “And you see a lot of that from the left about being tolerant. But what you saw there is inconsistent with tolerance. In fact, it’s her espousing intolerance, because I’ve decided to stand up for truth and justice.”

Watch Cameron’s Fox & Friends interview below.

Eddie Van Halen Was ‘The Greatest of Our Generation’: Joe Satriani Pays Tribute

The first time I heard Eddie’s guitar playing, it was coming through the radio in my little studio apartment and I actually had my guitar on. I was practicing and listening to the radio and all of a sudden, “Eruption” [from Van Halen’s 1978 self-titled debut album] comes on and fills my apartment and not only was my breath taken away and my heart pumping out of control, but I was so happy that someone had arrived who was going to really do it.

I guess I felt like being on the road with a disco band and going through the punk scene, that the guitar was a little bit under siege and all of a sudden this savior comes and he’s got the right hand of doom and incredible musicianship, but it’s all with a smile and a swagger. It’s all rock and roll. It was just so good. My faith in music was renewed once again just from hearing him play. Every time I hear his guitar playing, I feel the same way. It always takes my breath away.

We never shared a stage. I got to see him play here in Northern California. I think it was the Cow Palace. Just a great, crazy set of rock and roll shows. The first version of Van Halen with David Lee Roth, and they were just remarkable on every level. They were just so much fun, but the guitar player in me knew that what he was doing was untouchable because of his impeccable sense of timing. The little technical things that guitar players can talk about for hours, they get picked up by a million people in a second. Everybody can copy the technical bits, but nobody could put the heart and soul and personality into each little bit like he could and no one delivered it like he did. He wrote great songs that were fun. He got to the point really fast. It was always exciting. It was always a great ride.

To know him well must have been really amazing. I only got to hang out with him for about a half-hour when I was doing The Extremist album back in 1992 at Record One in Los Angeles. He stopped by to say hi and see what I was up to and say hi to my producer Andy Johns. I have to admit, I was starstruck. He was going a million miles an hour and he was full-on Eddie Van Halen and I wish I could have stopped him and said how amazing I thought he was, but all I could do was watch.

As a songwriter, he wrote really catchy, solid, melodic songs that made sense. They were more intricate than meets the ear. He had that gift where he would put in complicated and unusual rhythmic structures but they somehow came off sounding so natural and inviting to listen to. It was really a gift and a testament to his compositional abilities. Little twists and turns. He could take a song like “Dance the Night Away” and put in some innovation that would make your head spin, but it never stopped you from singing the song. They had a great band. The four of them all contributed just enough to complete Eddie’s compositional approach. Really, really fantastic how they worked together.

I asked him every single time for G3 [Satriani’s ongoing concert tour featuring him and two other rock guitar virtuosos]. I had a number and later on an email. I don’t know where it went [laughs], but I had it on good authority that he received these messages and that he smiled and was appreciative to be invited. I never really thought he was going to say yes, but I was his biggest fan. I know it and I knew that like everybody else in the audience we would do anything just to have him show up and play his guitar. We didn’t need Van Halen and the big stage. There was no question of the fact that he was the king. It seemed like an easy thing, but at the same time I knew he’d never say yes, because he didn’t need to.

[The lead single, “Nineteen Eighty,” from Satriani’s April release, Shapeshifting, is an homage to Eddie Van Halen.]

One day, I’m in my studio and I just have to write a song to represent how I felt at the time [Satriani’s early band] The Squares  had started and what was happening right at 1980. It had to do with what I felt about Eddie’s playing and how I wanted to bring it to the band, but was getting a lot of resistance from the people I was hanging around with and the band who weren’t really into that kind of thing. At the time I couldn’t believe it because I thought what Eddie was doing was amazing. I thought I should write a song about what I wanted to do in 1980, but what I didn’t do. Just by coincidence, on the floor in the studio was a signature Eddie Van Halen phaser pedal. I kid you not. I just thought I’m going to plug it in and record myself playing this song and just reflect that joy that I had just knowing that Eddie was in the world playing guitar like that.

I hope he gets remembered as the greatest of the generation.

–As told to Melinda Newman