Remembering a WailerWednesday, March 03, 2021
BY BRIAN BONITTO
REGGAE music's elder statesman, Bunny Wailer, died in the Medical Associates Hospital in Kingston yesterday morning. The 73-year-old had been admitted to that facility since mid-December.
His manager, Maxine Stowe, confirmed Wailer's passing.
“The family is preparing an official statement. I can only confirm he passed early this morning [yesterday], about 8 o'clock,” Stowe told the Jamaica Observer.
“He had been in and out of hospital since his [second] stroke... and I'm still right here with him,” she continued.
An original member of The Wailers — which also comprised Bob Marley and Peter Tosh — Wailer suffered a second stroke in July 2020. It was his second stroke in two years.
Marley died of cancer on May 11, 1981, while Tosh was killed at his St Andrew home on September 11, 1987.
Marcia Griffiths — a former member of Bob Marley's backing group, the I Three — was in disbelief hours after news of Wailer's death began circulating.
“When I got up and heard this morning [yesterday], I didn't want to believe it. Even though I knew he's ill, I was still looking for his recovery. So I really and truly thought he'd recover,” Griffiths told the Observer. “I am still in shock. Unbelievable. We're losing so many of our great people.”
Griffiths said she met Wailer as a child while attending a church-operated kindergarten in Hannah Town, west Kingston. Their paths would soon cross again.
“When I went to Studio One in 1964, and saw all the artistes, including The Wailers; Bunny was the only one I knew. I didn't know anybody else, because me and him come from 'Little School'. I was glad to see him as somebody that I knew from I was a little girl,” she said. “From that time, he never leave me out. When he saw me at 'Coxsone', I told him where I was now living and he used to visit me with food he brought from his vineyard in the country.”
Clement “Coxsone” Dodd was principal of Studio One, one of Jamaica's most renowned record labels and recording studios. Dodd, who died in 2004, was uncle to Stowe.
After Wailer and Tosh left The Wailers in 1974, Griffiths became part of I Three which also comprised Marley's wife, Rita, and Judy Mowatt.
Griffiths said The Wailers split never affected her friendship with Bunny Wailer.
“We never leave out each other. That's how he came to my house and I got to show him the rhythm box that I bought, and that's how Electric Boogie came about,” she said.
Electric Boogie was written and produced by Wailer in 1982. The song was a global hit for Griffiths and remains part of her repertoire.
Hailing from Trench Town, Bunny Wailer's given name is Neville Livingston.
His albums include the outstanding Blackheart Man, released in 1976, and Rock 'n' Groove which came out five years later. His hit songs include Cool Runnings, Ballroom Floor, Crucial and Rock 'n' Groove.
In 2017, the Jamaican Government conferred on Bunny Wailer the Order of Merit, the country's fourth highest honour. The Government again recognised his contribution to Jamaican music in February 2019 with a Reggae Gold Award.
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