Johnny Nash, a singer whose “I Can See Clearly Now” reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1972, helping to bring reggae music to a mainstream audience in the United States and over the decades becoming an anthem of optimism and renewal, died on Tuesday at his home in Houston. He was 80.
His son, Johnny Jr., confirmed the death to The Associated Press but did not specify a cause.
Mr. Nash was a singer, an actor, a record-label owner and an early booster of Bob Marley over a long and varied career that began in the late 1950s when, as a teenager, he appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s CBS-TV variety show. He also sang on Mr. Godfrey’s popular radio broadcasts.
With his clear, smooth, emotive voice, Mr. Nash was signed to ABC-Paramount and marketed as a crooner in the Johnny Mathis mold. He recorded several albums of lushly orchestrated standards, but they met with only modest success. He also tried his hand at acting, starring in the 1959 coming-of-age drama “Take a Giant Step” and appearing alongside Dennis Hopper in the 1960 neo-noir “Key Witness.”
By 1965, Mr. Nash had formed his own record label, JoDa, in partnership with Danny Sims, his manager, and that year he scored a hit on the Billboard R&B chart with “Let’s Move and Groove (Together).” It marked the beginning of a new and much more successful phase of his career.
When Mr. Nash traveled to Jamaica to promote that record, he became enamored with the emerging reggae sound. He began recording at Federal Studios in Kingston, where he bought a house, and in 1968, at a Rastafarian ceremony, he met a young Bob Marley.