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Johnny Nash dies at 80 due to natural causes

FILE: American singer-songwriter Johnny Nash during his first visit to London for various public appearances, 3rd September 1968. (Photo by Ron Case/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Johnny Nash died Tuesday at the age of 80 surrounded by friends and family at home in Houston. The singer-songwriter behind the million-selling anthem “I Can See Clearly Now” died of natural causes. 

When “I Can See Clearly Now” topped the charts in 1972, Nash was in his early 30s. Nash sold more than 1 million copies of the single, and it made him an international star.

He was the first singer to record in Jamaica for a non-Jamaican song.

Johnny Nash had a special something about him, music critics said. Maybe it was his reggae twist that sent him to the top of the charts for four weeks. 

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.

“I Can See Clearly Now” was reportedly written by Nash after cataract surgery. It was meant to be a story of overcoming hard times in the promise of something better to follow. The rock critic Robert Christgau would call the song, which Nash also produced, “2 minutes and 48 seconds of undiluted inspiration.”

After the 1980s Nash became but an anomaly to his fan base. He stopped recording and performing and rarely spoke to the press or anyone in the music industry. 

“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.”

That same year, 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.”

Contributing: Associated Press