Bunny Wailer, Reggae Icon and Founder of The Wailers, Dead at 73
Reggae star Bunny Wailer has died. He was 73.
Wailer died in his native Jamaica at the Andrews Memorial Hospital in the St. Andrew Parish on Tuesday, his manager Maxine Stowe told reporters. His cause of death is unknown at this time. Local news outlets in the island country reported in August that Wailer was recovering from a stroke.
Born Neville Livingston, he was the last surviving member of The Wailers, after bandmates Bob Marley died from cancer in 1981 and Peter Tosh was murdered in 1987.
Born April 10, 1947, Wailer first gained international fame as a founding member of iconic reggae group The Wailers, alongside his childhood friend, Bob Marley. The group, founded in 1963, is behind several hit songs including their first single "Simmer Down" and later "Stir It Up," released in '63 and '67 respectively. The former became a No. 1 chart-topper in Jamaica in February '94. The latter was re-recorded by American singer Johnny Nash, his cover charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973.
Wailer has won the Grammy Award for best reggae album three times for his works Time Will Tell – A Tribute to Bob Marley in '90, Crucial! Roots Classics in '94 and Hall of Fame – A Tribute to Bob Marley's 50th Anniversary in '96.
Wailer was vocal about his dedication to his country. In 1988, he chartered a jet to deliver food to those impacted by Hurricane Gilbert, per ABC News. "Sometimes people pay less attention to those things [like food], but they turn out to be the most important things. I am a farmer," he told the Associated Press.
The following year in '89, he opened up about his love for Jamaica. "I think I love the country actually a little bit more than the city," Wailer told The AP. "It has more to do with life, health and strength. The city takes that away sometimes. The country is good for meditation. It has fresh food and fresh atmosphere that keeps you going."
He was honored with Jamaica's Order of Merit in 2017.
In 2017, he spoke of the significance of his first solo album Blackheart Man, which debuted in 1976. "The tracks that were done in Blackheart Man were very symbolic and significant to this whole development of reggae music," Wailer told Reggaeville in 2017. "I really consider Blackheart Man to be one of those albums that the universal reggae world should be focused on."
Many Jamaican leaders have paid tribute to the star since his death.
"The passing of Bunny Wailer, the last of the original Wailers, brings to a close the most vibrant period of Jamaica's musical experience," politician Peter Phillips wrote in a Facebook post. "Bunny was a good, conscious Jamaican brethren."
In a series of tweets, Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness spoke highly of Wailer, calling him "a respected elder statesman of the Jamaican music scene."
He continued, "This is a great loss for Jamaica and for Reggae, undoubtedly Bunny Wailer will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and Jamaica's culture," he wrote.
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