Bunny Wailer Dead At 73
The last surviving member of the original Wailers has died. The Jamaica Observer reports that reggae legend Bunny Wailer died at a hospital in Kingston this morning. No cause of death has been given, but Wailer suffered the second of two strokes last summer. He was 73.
Bunny Wailer was born Neville O’Riley Livingston in Kingston. When both were small children, Wailer and Bob Marley became stepbrothers. As children, both were friends with their future Wailers bandmate Peter Tosh. In 1963, the three teenagers formed a group called the Wailing Wailers. Livingston, nicknamed Bunny Wailer by Marley, sang and played percussion. (The singers Junior Braithwaite, Cherry Smith, and Beverley Kelso were also in an early lineup, but all of them left early, and the Wailers were a trio by 1966.) Together, the Wailers recorded a number of ska singles, including the classic “Simmer Down” in the early ’60s. The group temporarily broke up in the mid-’60s, when Marley moved to America. Around the same time, Wailer was sentenced to 14 months in prison for cannabis possession. When Wailer got out of jail, he rejoined Marley and Tosh.
Bob Marley And The Wailers became an international sensation in the early ’70s, and Wailer’s harmonies were a key part of their sound. But Wailer didn’t like leaving Jamaica to tour, and he left the Wailers in 1973, recording a number of solo roots reggae albums that passionately extolled Rastafarian principles. After Bob Marley’s 1981 death, Wailer recorded Marley tributes, and he also went on to experiment with dancehall in the genre’s ’80s infancy.
In his later years, Bunny Wailer won three Grammys, was awarded Jamaica’s Order Of Merit, and formed his own political party, the United Progressive Party. Wailer continued to tour and record into the ’00s. Check out some examples of his work below.