Perhaps due to these moments of darkness, it's been rumored that the song is about suicide. But Nash has never said as such, and that's not really what the song feels like anyway. Rather, the reminder that no matter how sunny it looks or feels right now, the rain never totally goes away forever, is a healthy one -- especially as the song doesn't let the diversion totally derail its focus on the clearer skies ahead. And of course, it's not the glimpses of pain and doubt that "I Can See Clearly Now" is most remembered for nearly a half-century later, but that giddy optimism for the future. It has soundtracked countless movie montages and vacation package commercials as a feel-good anthem, practically a moment of escapist fantasy in a world where such moments of total spiritual and mental ease can be tough to come by.
In any event, the optimism of "I Can See Clearly Now" was quickly validated by the song's chart performance. It debuted at No. 84 on the Hot 100 in early September 1972, and just eight weeks later, replaced Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-Ling" atop the chart, staying there for four weeks. Nash would re-release his version of Marley's "Stir It Up" for his next single, hitting No. 12 on the Hot 100 in April 1973 -- but that would be his final visit to the chart's top 40, as Philly soul and then disco rose to prominence and again Nash was left playing catch-up. He disappeared from the industry for much of the later part of his life, with seven years between the release of 1979's Let's Go Dancing and 1986's Here Again albums, and the follow-up to the latter never materializing.
If Nash's new friends in Jamaica hoped that his Stateside success would provide the bridge they could then cross to such Hot 100 triumph of their own, they were bound to be disappointed when the next decades brought further Island-flavored No. 1s from Eric Clapton (with a cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff"), Blondie (doing the Paragons' calypso hit "The Tide Is High") and UB40 (with reggae-arranged covers of Neil Diamond's "Red, Red Wine" and Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love"), but none from Jamaican artists aside from Carl Douglas' disco novelty "Kung Fu Fighting." Vindication would have to wait until the '90s, when Maxi Priest ("Close to You") and Ini Kamoze ("Here Comes the Hotstepper") brought Jamaican music to the top spot, opening the doors for the likes of Shaggy and Sean Paul to notch multiple Hot 100 No. 1s each at the dawn of the 21st century.
Would Nash be at risk of cultural appropriation accusations today for becoming reggae's first true Stateside crossover star, without any Jamaican roots of his own? Perhaps, but likely not too seriously -- his hits were recorded in Jamaica, after all, with Jamaican collaborators, some of whose later international success Nash helped make possible. ("It was Nash who helped the Wailers reorganize musically and who ultimately ushered them onto the world stage," David Vlado Moskowitz wrote in 2007's The Words and Music of Bob Marley. "In 1975, Bob said of Nash, 'He's good, I like him.'") And in 1994, Nash probably got whatever remaining validation he would need when "I Can See Clearly Now" was returned to the Hot 100's top 20 as part of the Cool Runnings soundtrack -- recorded by none other than Jimmy Cliff.