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Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now resonates in a world plunged into darkness

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We need songs like this as a balm for our sorrow and to give us courage to make it through this pandemic, Benedict Lopez writes.

Johnny Nash, the pop and reggae singer whose I Can See Clearly Now topped the charts in 1972, passed away at home in Houston on 6 October 2020 aged 80.

Although he might be thought of as a one-hit wonder by many, Nash’s website refers to I Can See Clearly Now as the singer’s comeback hit: the then-32-year-old had been performing and occasionally hitting the charts since the late 1950s.

Born on 19 August 1940 in Houston, John Lester Nash Jr grew up singing in church. In 1965, he moved to Jamaica, where he met Bob Marley and his Wailers performing at a Rastafarian party.

After hits in the late 1960s, with songs like Hold Me Tight, Nash rocketed to fame with the reggae-inspired I Can See Clearly Now in 1972. The song which Nash wrote and produced himself – was a huge success, going gold with a four-week run at the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The lyrics resonate with us to this day, especially given the coronavirus pandemic and the many challenges arising from it. Never before has the world been afflicted with a scourge, coupled with economic uncertainty, on this scale.

We need songs, even spirituals, like this to serve as a balm for our sorrow and to give us courage to make it through this calamitous period. Written while Nash was recovering from cataract surgery, I Can See Clearly Now is a story of overcoming hard times, with the promise of a “bright, bright sunshiny day”.

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The soaring call – “Look straight ahead, nothing but blue skies!” – should lift us with hope that light awaits at the end of the tunnel.

Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sunshiny…

Full lyrics here

The song once again hit the charts in 1993, when Jimmy Cliff recorded it for the soundtrack of Cool Runnings; it reached number 18.

Nash also topped the UK chart in 1975 with Tears on My Pillow.

Besides singing, Nash had four acting roles in films and TV, including playing Spencer Scott in Take a Giant Step, one of the first black family films written by an African-American writer.

RIP, Johnny Nash.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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