Johnny Nash, the singer-songwriter of the million-selling hit I Can See Clearly Now has left this world, gone at 80 years old.
I Can See Clearly Now is a single from the album of the same name. It was released in summer 1972 and went to Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, plus it was Number One in the UK. It has been covered by many artists throughout the years, including a hit version by Lee Towers that reached the Top 20 in 1982 and another hit version in 1993 by Jimmy Cliff, from the soundtrack of the film Cool Runnings, that went to Number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Nash lived several showbiz lives. In the mid-1950s, he was a teenage crooner of standards, with a light tenor voice in the mold of Johnny Mathis. By the mid-1960s, he was running a record company, and had become a rare American-born singer of Reggae who helped introduce his friend Bob Marley to American music fans. Nash was also an actor and producer.
He peaked commercially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he had hits with Hold Me Tight, You Got Soul, an Marley’s Stir It Up.
I Can See Clearly Now was written by Nash while recovering from cataract surgery. It is two minutes and 48 seconds of undiluted inspiration about overcoming hard times, with its swelling pop-reggae groove, the promise of a “bright, bright sunshiny day” and Nash’s gospel-styled exclamation midway:
“Look straight ahead, nothing but blue skies!“
Nash grew up singing in church and at 13 years old he had his own show on Houston television. Within a few years, he had a national following through his appearances on television, his hit cover of A Very Special Love (originally sung by Doris Day), and a collaborations with other artists such as Paul Anka on the wholesome The Teen Commandments (Of Love) (1959).
Nash had roles in the films Take A Giant Step (1959), where he plays a high school student rebelling against how the Civil War is taught, and Key Witness (1960), a crime drama with Dennis Hopper and Jeffrey Hunter.
In the late 1960s, he formed JAD Records with his manager and business partner Danny Sims. They signed Bob Marley and the Wailers, who recorded Reggae On Broadway and dozens of other singles for JAD. Nash brought Marley to London in the early 1970s, when Nash was the bigger star.
Nash covered Marley’s songs and helped bring Marley’s music to the general audience. The two also collaborated on the ballad, You Poured Sugar On Me, which is on the I Can See Clearly Now album. Nash was one of the first non-Jamaican singers to record reggae music in Kingston, Jamaica.
Overlooked by the Grammy Awards, I Can See Clearly Now was huge and the song has been covered by artists ranging from Ray Charles and Donny Osmond to Soul Asylum and Hot House Flowers. It also turned up everywhere from Thelma and Louise (1991) to a Windex commercial, and in recently in commercials cataract procedures.
“I feel that music is universal. Music is for the ears and not the age. 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 popularity of I Can See Clearly Now outlasted Nash’s own. He rarely made the charts in the following years, even after releasing good albums filled with fine tunes, and by the 1990s, Nash had essentially left the biz. His last album was, ironically titled Here Again (1986).
Nash was married three times and had two children and as an adult lived with on a ranch near Houston, where for years he also managed rodeos at the Johnny Nash Indoor Arena.