Toots Hibbert, the legendary frontman of reggae group the Maytals, has died at the age of 77.

The death of the singer who was behind hits including Pressure Drop, Monkey Man and 54-46 That’s My Number as leader of Toots and the Maytals was announced in a statement issued by his family.

While no cause of death was given, he had reportedly been tested for COVID-19 in recent weeks.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts to announce that Frederick Nathaniel ‘Toots’ Hibbert passed away peacefully tonight, surrounded by his family at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica,” his family said.

“The family and his management team would like to thank the medical teams and professionals for their care and diligence, and ask that you respect their privacy during their time of grief.”

The statement added that he was survived by his wife of 39 years, Miss D, and “his seven of eight children”.

Widely recognised for the power of his soulful voice – which was compared by some to that of Otis Redding – Hibbert and his group were considered pioneers of reggae and its growth in popularity across the world.

The band’s 1968 single Do the Reggay is believed to have been the first song to use the word “reggae”.

Born in 1942 in Clarendon, Jamaica, Hibbert was the youngest of seven children and had continued to perform regularly up until his recent illness.

He was taken into hospital just days after his and the Maytals’ first album in more than a decade – Got to Be Tough – was released.

Speaking to Rolling Stone about the album, he said: “I’m very proud of what I’ve done and the love I’ve given.

“But it’s getting harder and harder to give the love the people need, and they need it now more than ever. No time to waste.”