Reggae icon Bunny Wailer has died at 73

Bunny Wailer, a founding member of the Wailers and a reggae music giant whose career spanned seven decades, died at the age of 73.

Wailer’s manager, Maxine Stowe, confirmed that Wailer died Tuesday at Medical Associates Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica (via the Jamaica Observer). The cause of death was not reported, but Wailer had been in and out of the hospital since he suffered his second stroke in 2020. A representative for the musician did not immediately respond to Rolling StoneRequest for comments.

Wailer, born Neville Livingstone, before adopting his famous nickname, also known as Bunny Livingstone, was a member of the original Wailers trio with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

Livingstone was born on April 10, 1947, in the Nine Mile district of St. Ann Parish in Jamaica. Livingstone was a friend of Marley from a young age; After the death of Marley’s father, Norval, in 1955, Marley’s mother, Cedella, lived with Livingstone’s father, Thaddeus, in Trench Town, making Bunny and Bob almost half-brothers.

While Marley and Livingstone were being mentored by Joe Higgs, “the godfather of reggae,” they met Higgs’s fellow student, Peter Tosh; the then trio ventured to Kingston. Soon after, they were joined by singer Junior Braithwaite and backup singers Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith. After a series of name changes that included the Teenagers and the Wailing Wailers, the Wailers aligned themselves with the Coxsone Dodd sound system and the Studio One label, which employed songwriters and producers such as Lee “Scratch” Perry and Jackie. Mittoo, and released Marley’s “Simmer Down,” a number one hit in Jamaica.

Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith soon departed the Wailers, leaving the core of Marley, Livingstone, and Tosh intact; That trio recorded the band’s debut LP, 1965 The wailing of the wailing, a collection of songs the band recorded in the mid-sixties. The Wailers then went on hiatus when Marley married his wife Rita and joined her mother in Wilmington, Delaware; During this period, Livingstone served a one-year sentence for possession of marijuana. However, the three main Wailers reunited following Marley’s return to Jamaica.

While Marley and Tosh served as the lead singers and songwriters for the Wailers, Livingstone played an indispensable role in providing harmonies to the trio’s songs. The Wailers later joined Perry and his Upsetters for the 1970s. Soul rebels and 1971 Soul revolution; Around this time, Livingstone wrote and recorded one of his signature songs, “Dreamland,” a track that he revisited when he released his solo LP. Blackheart Man in 1976.

A collection of Wailers songs that the trio recorded for producer Leslie Kong’s Beverley label was released as Best of the Wailers in 1971. By then, thanks in large part to the success of reggae acts like Toots and the Maytals and Jimmy Cliff, Jamaican music found an international audience, and the Wailers embarked on a UK tour with the reggae singer. American Johnny Nash.

In 1972, the Wailers signed with producer Chris Blackwell and his Island Records, resulting in their classic debut and on a major label in 1973, Catch a fire. Although the album and its equally historic follow-up, 1973 Ablaze helped propel the Wailers to international fame, following the release of Ablaze, Tosh and Wailer left the group as Blackwell sought to diminish their roles and rename the Wailers as Marley’s support group, in addition to scheduling a tour of the United States that put Tosh and Wailer’s strict Rastafarian faith to the test. After resigning, Wailer was briefly replaced by Higgs when the Catch a Fire Tour arrived in America in the spring of 1973. Catch a fire It later ranked number 126 in Rolling StoneList of the 500 best albums, with Ablaze placing the number 319.

After his departure from the Wailers, Livingstone, now known as Bunny Wailer, began working on his solo album. Blackheart Man; While he creatively took a backseat on the Wailers, the LP allowed Wailer to establish himself as his own artist, with Wailer writing, producing and singing the lead on the entirety of Black Heart Man, It also featured contributions from mainstays of the Wailers band and reggae legends like Sly and Robbie and Aston “Family Man” Barrett. The album featured songs like “Dreamland” and “Burning Down Sentence”, which was inspired by his time in prison.

“The tracks that were made in Blackheart Man they were very symbolic and significant to all this development of reggae music, “Wailer told Reggaeville in 2017.” I really consider Blackheart Man to be one of those albums that the world of universal reggae should focus on. “

Blackheart Man marked the beginning of a prolific and fruitful solo career for Wailer, who would win the Grammy for Best Reggae Album three times in the 1990s, for 1991 Time Will Tell: A Tribute To Bob Marley, From 1995 Crucial! Roots classics, and the 1997 All-Star Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley’s 50th Anniversary.

Reflecting on his career in 2016, Wailer told Afropop: “The Wailers are responsible for the sound of the Wailers. Bob, Peter and myself – we are fully responsible for the sound of the Wailers and what the Wailers brought to the world and left as a legacy. “

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