John Lester Nash, Jr. (born August 19, 1940) is an American reggae and pop music singer-songwriter, best known in the US for his 1972 hit, "I Can See Clearly Now". He was also one of the first non-Jamaican singers to record reggae music in Kingston, Jamaica.
Life and musical career
Born John Lester Nash Jr. in Houston, Texas, United States, he began as a pop singer in the 1950s. He released four albums for ABC-Paramount, with his self-named debut in 1958. Around 20 singles were released between 1958 and 1964 on a variety of labels such as Groove, Chess, Argo and Warners. He also enjoyed success as an actor early in his career, appearing in the screen version of playwright Louis S. Peterson's Take a Giant Step. Nash won a Silver Sail Award for his performance from the Locarno International Film Festival.
In 1965, Johnny Nash and Danny Sims formed the JODA Records label in New York. One of the more interesting signings was four brothers from Newport, Rhode Island, ages 9, 11, 15 and 16, called The Cowsills; this was prior to their later signing with Mercury/Philips, and then MGM, for whom they had their first million-selling hit single, "The Rain, the Park & Other Things". The Cowsills went into the studio in New York with session musicians and recorded a number of songs like "Either You Do Or You Don't" and "You Can't Go Halfway". Eventually The Cowsills wrote and recorded their own song, "All I Really Wanta Be Is Me", which became the group's debut single release on JODA (J-103).
Nash recorded several hits in Jamaica, where he travelled in early 1968, as his girlfriend had family links with local TV and radio host and novel writer Neville Willoughby. Nash planned to try breaking the local rocksteady sound in the United States. Willoughby introduced him to a local struggling vocal group, Bob Marley & The Wailing Wailers. Members Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and Rita Marley introduced him to the local scene. Nash signed all four to an exclusive recording contract with his JAD label and also an exclusive publishing contract with Cayman music. An advance was paid in the form of a weekly wage and JAD also financed some of their recordings, some with Byron Lee's Dragonaires and some with other local musicians such as Jackie Jackson and Lynn Taitt. None of the Marley and Tosh songs he produced were successful. Only two singles were released at the time: "Bend Down Low" (JAD 1968) and "Reggae on Broadway" (Columbia, 1972), which was recorded in London in 1972 on the same sessions that produced "I Can See Clearly Now."
"I Can See Clearly Now" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in November 1972. "I Can See Clearly Now" reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 4, 1972, and remained atop the chart for four weeks, and also spent the same four weeks atop the adult contemporary chart. The I Can See Clearly Now album includes four original Marley compositions published by JAD: "Guava Jelly", "Comma Comma", "You Poured Sugar On Me" and the follow-up hit "Stir It Up". "There Are More Questions Than Answers" was a third hit single taken from the album.
Nash was also active as a composer in the Swedish romance Vill så gärna tro (1971) in which he portrayed Robert. The film soundtrack, partly instrumental reggae with strings, was co-composed by Bob Marley and arranged by Fred Jordan.
JAD Records ceased to exist in 1971, but it was revived in 1997 by American Marley specialist Roger Steffens and French musician and producer Bruno Blum for the Complete Bob Marley & the Wailers 1967–1972 ten-album series, for which several of the Nash-produced Marley and Tosh tracks were mixed or remixed by Blum for release. Nash's biggest hits were the early reggae (rocksteady) tunes "Hold Me Tight" (a number-five hit in the US in 1968 and the UK, the tune also used in Score commercials) and "Stir It Up" (1971), the latter written by Bob Marley prior to Marley's international success. In the UK, his biggest hit was with the song "Tears On My Pillow" which reached number one in the UK Singles Chart in July 1975 for one week.
After a cover of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World" and "Let's Go Dancing" in 1979, for many years Nash seemed to have dropped out of sight, with the exception of a brief resurgence in the mid-1980s with the album Here Again (1986), which was preceded by the minor UK hit, "Rock Me Baby." Younger audiences were introduced to Nash's music with the appearance of Jimmy Cliff's cover of "I Can See Clearly Now" in Disney's 1993 hit film Cool Runnings. In May 2006, Nash was singing again at SugarHill Recording Studios and at Tierra Studios in his native Houston. Working with SugarHill chief engineer Andy Bradley and Tierra Studios' grammy-winning Randy Miller, he began the work of transferring analog tapes of his songs from the 1970s and 1980s to Pro Tools digital format.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Johnny Nash among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Johnny Nash has four acting credits in film and television. In 1959, he had the lead role as Spencer Scott in Take a Giant Step, directed by Philip Leacock, one of the first black family films written by a black writer. In 1960 he appeared as "Apple" alongside Dennis Hopper in the crime drama Key Witness. In 1971, he played Robert in the Swedish romance Vill så gärna tro.
|Year||Single (A-side, B-side)
|1956||"A Teenager Sings The Blues"
|1957||"I'll Walk Alone"
|"A Very Special Love"
|1958||"My Pledge To You"
|"Please Don't Go"
|"You're Looking At Me"
|"Almost In Your Arms"
|"The Teen Commandments"
|1959||"Walk With Faith In Your Heart"
|"As Time Goes By"
|"And The Angels Sing"
||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||I Got Rhythm|
|"Take A Giant Step"
|"Never My Love"
|"Let The Rest Of The World Go By"
||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||Let's Get Lost|
|"Looks Like The End Of The World"
|1961||"Some Of Your Lovin'"
|"I Need Someone To Stand By Me"
|"I'm Counting On You"
|"Too Much Love"
|1962||"Don't Take Away Your Love"
|"Ol' Man River"
|1963||"I'm Movin' On"
|"I've Got A Lot To Offer Darling"
|"Deep In The Heart Of Harlem"
|"Town Of Lonely Hearts"
|"Love Ain't Nothin'"
||-||133||-||-||-||-||-||Teardrops In The Rain|
|"Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye"
|"Teardrops In The Rain"
|"Let's Move & Groove Together"
|1966||"Get Myself Together"
||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||Teardrops In The Rain|
|"One More Time"
||-||-||-||-||-||-||-||Love Me Tender|
|"(I'm So) Glad You're My Baby"
|1968||"Hold Me Tight"
||5||7||21||20||5||1||4||Hold Me Tight|
|"You Got Soul"
|"We Try Harder"*
||135||-||-||-||-||-||-||Johnny Nash & Kim Weston|
|"Love and Peace"
||132||-||-||-||-||-||-||Love and Peace|
||39||36||-||38||6||30||-||Hold Me Tight|
|1970||"(What A) Groovey Feeling"
|"Falling In and Out Of Love"
|1972||"Stir It Up"
||-||11||-||6||13||7||48||I Can See Clearly Now|
|"I Can See Clearly Now"
|"There Are More Questions Than Answers"
|1973||"Stir It Up"
|"Ooh What A Feeling"
|"You Can't Go Halfway"
|1975||"(You Gave Me Such) Good Vibrations"
|"Tears On My Pillow"
||-||-||-||-||1||-||69||Tears On My Pillow|
|"Let's Be Friends"
|1976||"(What A) Wonderful World"
||103||82||66||34||25||-||96||What A Wonderful World|
||-||-||74||-||-||-||-||Let's Go Dancing|
|1985||"Rock Me Baby"
|1989||"I Can See Clearly Now"
- 1958: Johnny Nash (Paramount)
- 1959: I Got Rhythm (Paramount)
- 1959: Quiet Hour (Paramount)
- 1960: Let's Get Lost (Paramount)
- 1961: Starring Johnny Nash (Paramount)
- 1964: Composer's Choice (Argo)
- 1968: Hold Me Tight (JAD) # 109 US
- 1969: Prince of Peace (JAD)
- 1969: Let's Go Dancing (Epic)
- 1972: Teardrops in the Rain (Cadet)
- 1972: I Can See Clearly Now (Epic) # 39 UK, # 23 US
- 1973: My Merry-Go-Round (Epic US), # 169 US
- 1974: Celebrate Life (Epic)
- 1975: Tears on My Pillow (CBS)
- 1977: What a Wonderful World (Epic)
- 1979: Let's Go Dancing (Epic)
- 1986: Here Again (London)
- 1977: Johnny Nash Collection # 18 UK
- 1979: The Johnny Nash Album (CBS)
- 1981: Stir It Up
- 1993: The Reggae Collection
- 1996: The Best of Johnny
Nash sang the theme song for the television cartoon series The Mighty Hercules, which aired in first-run syndication from 1963 to 1966.