Bunny Wailer

Died in Jamaica yesterday: Bunny Wailer performs at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, in 2006.



A true cornerstone of Caribbean music.

That’s how veteran music producer Carl “­Beaver” Henderson says he will forever remember reggae legend Bunny Wailer.

Wailer, born Neville O’Riley-Livingston, was the sole survivor of the of the legendary Bob Marley and the Wailers group which also included Peter Tosh. The three-time Grammy award winner died at the Medical Associates Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica, yesterday. He was 73 years old.

“That’s one of the cornerstones of Caribbean music yuh talking about there. There are a couple musicians between Jamaica and Trinidad, the two ends of it, that never put a war between reggae, dancehall, calypso and soca. Bunny was one of those,” Henderson told the Express via phone yesterday.

Soca legend Roy Cape also paid his heartfelt tribute to Wailer yesterday, calling him a “pointer and an elder”. Cape said Wailer must be remembered as a true pioneer of reggae music. “I have a lot of respect for Bunny Wailer. Being one of the original Wailers, Bunny has given a lot of service to reggae and Jamaica. He was a pointer and an elder today. I think all of us of a certain age, we have enormous respect for Bunny Wailer.

“When you look back at reggae’s journey and yuh going through the game, you see you had Burning Spear and a whole lot of influential people. But I will always look back at the pioneers, and Bunny was a true pioneer,” Cape told the Express via phone.

Longstanding reggae DJ Lion King (Kenneth Charles) knows Wailer’s extensive catalogue intimately. The foundation sound man said Wailer, along with Marley and Tosh, made him first research what it truly meant to be rasta.

“He is one of the men that make and I and I check for rasta. Their music was so powerful. He was the last Wailer, he was the oldest and is in he yard everything start. So when it come to de Wailers, he is really the man,” Lion King said.

Lion King said more than an iconic musician, Wailer was a true trendsetter and his work directly paved the way for modern reggae artistes like Buju Banton (Mark Myrie), Chronixx (Jamar Rolando McNaughton), Koffee (Mikayla Simpson) and Protoje (Oje Ken Ollivierre).

“It’s a great loss we loss dey in de industry. To me, Bunny Wailer is one of the greatest on the whole. Dem is de men and dem who set de trend. As a sound man, he always contribute towards that. But to be honest, it wasn’t no surprise to me (hearing he passed) because I know he was sick and they took him back to the country to live some country life in de last,” Lion King said.

Original Stamina Daddy

Wailer could perform for hours on end with seemingly unquenchable energy. Several years ago he performed at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, as the headline act, taking the stage after 2 a.m. Wailer sang for well over three hours, performing his solo hits along with songs from the Wailers’ catalogue.

When they signalled it was time for him to wrap up his performance, Wailer told the audience he was not ready to go, asking if it was okay for him to continue. The crowd shouted a resounding “yes” in unison.

The police then began to signal to Wailer that his time was up and he needed to end his perfor­mance and exit the stage. Wailer responded saying he did not know when he would be in Trinidad again, so he was going to give the people all he had. As the sun began to peep through the clouds in the East, the police had the sound system shut off. Guess what? ­Wailer continued singing without accompaniment, and was still singing to people gathered around him when he left the stage.

Take a page from Jamaica

and honour our icons

Calypso and soca music innovator Kenny Phillips said Wailer is an irreplaceable piece in the Caribbean music puzzle. He called on the powers that be in T&T to take a second look at how revered and honoured the reggae icon was in Jamaica throughout his life. In 2017, Wailer was awarded Jamaica’s fourth highest national honour, the Order of Merit.

“One of the legends of the Caribbean has passed. I know he was lauded in his country for his influence on the development of reggae from the early days to what it is now. And he cannot be replaced. I admire how his country treated his name and his legacy. I only wish T&T could do the same for their icons,” Phillips lamented.

Henderson concurred with Phillips on Wailers’ one-of-a-kind talent. The Wailers as a music band influenced and informed his sound as a young man, Henderson admitted.

“From foundation with Bob. That whole development that I grow up under, from ska to the reggae. I grow up on that. When their sound came on, it was hard to not be influenced by it.

“When you listen to ‘Ganja Farmer’, what you hear? Dem fellas in the foundation of that. Although my riddim was a soca riddim, those guys were the root of the true modern song. It goes beyond the politics of music and the genre,” Henderson said.

Paying the ultimate tribute to Wailer, Henderson referred to Wailer of one of those rare musicians who not only felt but became the music they played.

“When you are creating or evolving a sound, you don’t have time to stop and think about what you’re doing. These are musicians who feel certain things, become it and push the movement forward, and Bunny was one of them,” ­Henderson concluded.

—with reporting by Wayne Bowman


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