Merit to Bunny's HonourThursday, October 12, 2017
BY BRIAN BONITTO
ON Heroes' Day, Bunny “Jah B” Wailer will collect his third National Honour at King's House in St Andrew. However, for him, this one is significant.
“I did not expect it, but knew it was something that ones spoke to me about being due based on the vastness of my contribution and my focus on preserving the legacy of The Wailers, not only to the music but to the Rastafari culture and community,” the 70-year-old reggae singer told Jamaica Observer. “It is growing on me as my greatest recognition. It's like getting that final PhD.”
Bunny Wailer will receive an Order of Merit — Jamaica's third-highest honour — for his outstanding and pioneering contribution to the field of popular music at the October 16 ceremony.
Other founding members of The Wailers, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, were posthumously bestowed the award in 1981 and 2012, respectively.
“It would also be logical, being the third founding and contributing member, I would also be in line,” said Bunny Wailer.
Bunny Wailer, whose given name is Neville Livingston, had previously been invested with an Order of Distinction — Commander Class (1996), and an Order of Jamaica (2012).
Formed in the 1960s, The Wailers released their debut set The Wailing Wailers on the Studio One label in 1965 and established themselves as a formidable ska act with songs like Simmer Down and Lonesome Feeling.
“Our music was a life music, group music. We were mimicking the US soul groups, especially The Impressions, to develop our style and technique. We were recognised and signed as three singer/songwriters for Coxson's Studio One, and we chose our relationship in the group based on delivering the perfect group sound. This most successful 'sound' arrangement was with Bob doing the lead, but all throughout our career Peter and I also wrote and led. We only knew and worked at wanting to be the best and this started with our very first single Simmer Down. We had rehearsed and performed together, with Joe Higgs teaching us, and singing all over Trench Town, Greenwich Park, Rasta camps for about 14 months before we did our first record. So we always envisioned and worked at being the best and grew to exemplifying our culture as Rastafari at the highest level globally. This is what the elders of the Rastafari faith saw in us and encouraged us as we performed at their camps, and it was they who renamed us and inspired us as The Wailers from what we had called ourselves, The Juveniles!,” he said.
In 1974, Bunny Wailer and Tosh left the group to pursue individual careers.
As a solo artiste, Bunny Wailer received three Grammy Awards — Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley (1991), Crucial! Roots Classics (1995), and Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley 's 50th Anniversary (1997).
Tosh died in September 1989. Marley predeceased him in May 1981.
“As a Rastaman praising HIM Haile Selassie I, there must be purpose and inspiration and moral discipline in exhibiting art as life. That is the enduring success of The Wailers trio... I as the survivor and my brethren through their respective estates,” Wailer declared.
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