Bunny Wailer, the legendary reggae artist died on March 2 in Kingston, Jam, at the age of 73. His manager, Maxine Stowe, confirmed that Wailer died in hospital. No cause of death was given, but Wailer suffered his second stroke in 2020 and was in and out of hospital.
Wailer was born Neville O’Riley Livingston on April 10, 1947, in the Nine Mile district of St. Ann Parish. He was a friend of Bob Marley’s from a young age and together with Peter Tosh, the three formed The Wailers.
While Marley and Tosh served as the Wailers’ primary singers and songwriters, Wailer played an indispensable role in providing harmonies to the trio’s songs.
In 1965 the trio recorded the band’s debut LP, 1965’sThe Wailing Wailers.
The Wailers then took a hiatus as Marley married his wife Rita and moved to Wilmington, Del.
During this time, Wailer served one year in prison on a marijuana possession charge.
The Wailers marked their return with the albums Soul Rebels in 1970 and Soul Revolution in 1971.
A collection of Wailers songs was released as Best of the Wailers in 1971.
In 1972, The Wailers signed with producer Chris Blackwell of Island Records.
The trio achieved international fame with their 1973 release, Catch a Fire and Burnin.
Wailer and Tosh left the group as Blackwell wanted to rebrand The Wailers as Marley’s backup group. A scheduled tour of the U.S. also tested Tosh and Wailer’s strict Rastafarian faith.
Wailer took the opportunity with his first solo LP, Blackheart Man, to establish himself as his own artist. He wrote, produced, and sang lead on the entire album.
The album included songs like “Dreamland” and “Burning Down Sentence,” which was inspired by his prison stint.
“The tracks that were done in Blackheart Man were very symbolic and significant to this whole development of reggae music,” Wailer said in a 2017 interview.
“I really consider Blackheart Man to be one of those albums that the universal reggae world should be focused on.”
Wailer produced a number of albums in his solo career and won three Grammys for Best Reggae Album — 1991’s Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley, 1995’s Crucial! Roots Classics, and the 1997’s all-star Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley’s 50th Anniversary.
Wailer was awarded the Order of Merit, the fourth highest honor in Jamaica in 2017.
In 2019, the Jamaican government awarded him the Reggae Gold Award for his overwhelming contribution to Jamaican popular music.
SOURCES: JAMAICAOBSERVER COM, ROLLINGSTONE.COM, URBANISLANDZ.COM