When Toots Hibbert plays with the Maytals next Friday night at Virginia’s Lockn’ Festival, it will be the first time the reggae legend has performed in the state since 2013, since he was hit in the head with a vodka bottle during a concert in Richmond, and suffered serious physical and emotional damage. “It was a horrible thing,” Toots tells Rolling Stone. “I suffered a lot.”
Toots retreated from touring for three full years — the longest break he’s ever taken from performing — to recover as the lawsuit winded through court. (The plaintiff, William Connor Lewis, received six months in jail and an undisclosed settlement was reached.) “Those years were not so good,” says Toots. “Depressed, can’t work, losing my living.” He spent his time recording — he estimates he’s got 200 new tracks in the can — and has returned to the road full-force this summer, across the U.S. and on to Europe in the fall.
For Lockn’, Toots will perform with one of his favorite guitarists, Taj Mahal, in a deep, energetic set of old hits as well as a new track, the soulful “Marley,” a tribute to his old friend. “I want to play for the people,”says Toots, 76. “That’s where I want to be — that’s where I get my energy. When I make people happy, I’m happy!” Asked if he’s nervous about returning to Virginia, where the attack happened, he shouts, “No way! Never scared. I’m strong — I can handle the hurt!”