Bunny Wailer, reggae luminary and last Wailers member, dies

By SHARLENE HENDRICKS

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Bunny Wailer, a reggae luminary who was the last surviving member of the legendary group The Wailers, died on Tuesday in his native Jamaica, according to his manager. He was 73.

Wailer, a baritone singer whose birth name is Neville Livingston, formed The Wailers in 1963 with late superstars Bob Marley and Peter Tosh when they lived in a slum in the capital of Kingston. They catapulted to international fame with the album, “Catch a Fire.” The Wailers and other Rasta musicians popularized Rastafarian culture among better-off Jamaicans starting in the 1970s.

Wailer’s death was mourned worldwide as people shared pictures, music and memories of the renown artist.

“The passing of Bunny Wailer, the last of the original Wailers, brings to a close the most vibrant period of Jamaica’s musical experience,” wrote Jamaica politician Peter Phillips in a Facebook post. “Bunny was a good, conscious Jamaican brethren.”

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, also paid tribute to Wailer, calling him “a respected elder statesman of the Jamaican music scene,” in a series of tweets.

“This is a great loss for Jamaica and for Reggae, undoubtedly Bunny Wailer will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and Jamaica’s culture,” he wrote.

While Wailer toured the world, he was more at home in Jamaica’s mountains and he enjoyed farming while writing and recording songs on his label, Solomonic.

″I think I love the country actually a little bit more than the city,″ Wailer told The Associated Press in 1989. ″It has more to do with life, health and strength. The city takes that away sometimes. The country is good for meditation. It has fresh food and fresh atmosphere – that keeps you going.″

A year before, in 1988, he had chartered a jet and flew to Jamaica with food to help those affected by Hurricane Gilbert.

″Sometimes people pay less attention to those things (food), but they turn out to be the most important things. I am a farmer,″ he told the AP.

The three-time Grammy winner died at the Andrews Memorial Hospital in the Jamaican parish of St Andrew, his manager, Maxine Stowe, told reporters. His cause of death was not immediately clear. Local newspapers had reported he was in and out of the hospital after a stroke nearly a year ago.

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AP writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.

FILE – In this Aug. 28, 2014 file photo, legalization advocate and reggae legend Bunny Wailer smokes a pipe stuffed with marijuana during a “reasoning” session in a yard in Kingston, Jamaica. Wailer, a reggae luminary who was the last surviving member of the legendary group The Wailers, died on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in his native Jamaica, according to his manager. He was 73. (AP Photo/David McFadden, File)

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