Bunny Wailer, born Neville O’Riley Livingston, along with a young Bob Marley and Peter Tosh co-founded the vocal trio the ‘Wailers’, that played a crucial role in transforming early 1960s ska music into rocksteady and, ultimately, reggae.
According to the Associated Press, Wailer’s death was confirmed by his manager, and the cause of his death was not immediately known as Jamaican newspapers reported that he had suffered a stroke about a year ago.
Best known for his work in songs like “Simmer Down”, “Rude Boy”, “Get Up, Stand Up”, “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Stir It Up”, “Blackheart Man” and dozens more.
Wailer’s approach to music creation helped manifest a whole new language that focused on groove and vibe.
After leaving the Wailers in 1973, Wailer carried on as a solo artist, releasing more than two dozen studio albums.
Prior to that and in 1965, the Wailers was reduced to the trio of Wailer, Marley and Tosh and continued to make hitsong like “Rude Boy,”which was about the booming generation of young toughs running the streets of Kingston. The song which became shorthand for a reggae fan.
In 1969, the Wailers entered Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Art studio to create “Downpresser,” a riff on the song “Sinnerman”. Slowing ska and rocksteady’s tempos by a third, it and the early dub remix B-side, “Downpresser Version,” helped transform Kingston, Jamaica’s club and sound-system scene.
The albums that followed, “Catch a Fire” and “Burnin’,” blew up in Jamaica, then in England, Europe and America.
Wailer left the Wailers not long after, citing frustration with touring and Marley’s increasingly prominent role.
A longtime Rastafarian who put his religion above all else, he spent his creative life in a vast compound and received callers when he so desired.
“Music is based on inspiration and if you’re in an environment where you are up and down, here and there, that’s how your music is going to sound,” Wailer told The Times.
“People get taken away in getting themselves to be a star and that is a different thing from getting yourself to be a good writer, musician, producer and arranger,” he added.
Wailer was the last of the group ‘Wailers’. He was preceded in death by Marley, who died of complications from cancer in 1981; and Tosh, who was murdered in Kingston in 1987.