Bunny Wailer, a founding member of the Wailers and a reggae music titan whose career spanned seven decades, died today at the age of 73, according to the Jamaica Observer.
Wailer’s manager Maxine Stowe confirmed that Wailer died at the Medical Associates Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica (via the Jamaica Observer). No cause of death has been named so far, but Wailer had been in and out of the hospital since suffering his second stroke, in 2020.
Wailer, born Neville Livingston — before adopting his famous moniker — was a member of the original Wailers trio with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
To quote from Rolling Stone:
While Marley and Livingston were being mentored by Joe Higgs, “the Godfather of Reggae,” they met Higgs’ fellow student Peter Tosh; the then-trio ventured to Kingston. Soon after, they were joined by singer Junior Braithwaite and backup vocalists Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith. Following a string of name changes that included the Teenagers and the Wailing Wailers, the Wailers aligned with Coxsone Dodd’s sound system and Studio One label — which employed songwriters and producers like Lee “Scratch” Perry and Jackie Mittoo — and released the Marley-penned “Simmer Down,” a Number One hit in Jamaica.
Braithwaite, Kelso, and Smith soon departed the Wailers, leaving the nucleus of Marley, Livingston, and Tosh intact; that trio recorded the band’s debut LP, 1965’s The Wailing Wailers, a collection of tracks the band recorded during the mid-Sixties. The Wailers then went on hiatus as Marley married his wife Rita and joined his mother in Wilmington, Delaware; during this period, Livingston served a yearlong sentence for marijuana possession. However, the three principle Wailers reunited upon Marley’s return to Jamaica.
While Marley and Tosh served as the Wailers’ primary singers and songwriters, Livingston played an indispensable role in providing harmonies to the trio’s songs. The Wailers next teamed with Perry and his Upsetters for 1970’s Soul Rebels and 1971’s Soul Revolution; around that time, Livingston wrote and recorded one of his signature songs, “Dreamland,” a track he revisited when he released his solo LP Blackheart Man in 1976.
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