Sly & Robbie’s Robbie Shakespeare Dead At 68

Sly & Robbie’s Robbie Shakespeare Dead At 68

Robbie Shakespeare, the Jamaican bassist and producer who was half of the hugely prolific and important duo Sly & Robbie, has died. The Gleaner reports that Shakespeare died in a Florida hospital after undergoing kidney surgery. He was 68.

Shakespeare grew up in Kingston, in a family full of musicians. He started out playing acoustic guitar as a child, and he moved to bass after the legendary reggae bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett agreed to teach him. After a while, Shakespeare found a gig in the Revolutionaries, the house band at Channel One Studio, which is where he met drummer and longtime musical partner Sly Dunbar. In the mid-’70s, Sly & Robbie split off from Channel One and started Taxi Records, their own production company. There, they developed their own spacey, locked-in groove. They also kept working as studio musicians, playing on classic records like Culture’s Two Sevens Clash and Gregory Isaacs’ Cool Ruler.

In the late ’70s, when Island Records founder Chris Blackwell founded Compass Point Studios in Nassau, he made Sly & Robbie the focus of the Compass Point All-Stars, the studio’s band of session musicians. At compass point, Sly & Robbie backed up stars like Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, Joe Cocker, and Robert Palmer, and their playing was crucial to hits like Grace Jones’ “Pull Up To The Bumper.” Their work quickly became so well-known that they played on Bob Dylan’s Infidels and Empire Burlesque and the Rolling Stones’ Undercover.

Sly & Robbie also released their own records, staring with the 1981 collection Sly & Robbie Present Taxi. As lead artists, their best-known work is 1987’s Rhythm Killers, recorded with a sort of international funk supergroup that included Bill Laswell, Bootsy Collins, and Bernie Worrell.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Sly & Robbie adapted to the new Jamaican sound of dancehall, working with early stars like Yellowman and Shabba Ranks. They co-produced, co-wrote, and played on Chaka Demus & Pliers’ 1992 single “Murder She Wrote,” arguably the greatest dancehall track ever recorded. They also played on Maxi Priest’s “Close To You,” a frothy pop-reggae song that became a #1 hit in America in 1990. For years afterwards, Sly & Robbie remained in high demand, producing No Doubt’s 2001 hits “Hey Baby” and “Underneath It All” while continuing to back up countless reggae musicians.

Below, check out some of Sly & Robbie’s tracks.

more from News