Reggae icon Bunny Wailer passes on at 73

Posted on March 2nd, 2021 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

Bunny WailerBunny Wailer, a founder of the reggae musical genre, died in Kingston on March 2 at the age of 73. He was the last surviving member of the original Wailers, following Bob Marley's death from cancer in 1981, and Peter Tosh's murder during a robbery in 1987.

Born Neville O'Riley Livingston, Bunny joined with his stepbrother Marley to form the Wailers in Kingston's notoriously rough Trenchtown district in the early 1960s. He would later recall building his first guitar from "a bamboo staff, the fine wires from an electric cable and a large sardine can."

Switching to drums, he became the band's percussionist, driving their early dance-oriented ska sound on their first hit, 1963's "Simmer Down," and several subsequent singles. Their transition from ska to the more relaxed (and ganja-influenced) reggae sound was evident on their second big hit, 1967's "Stir It Up." But that same year, Bunny was sentenced to 14 months in prison for cannabis possession, precipitating a hiatus in the band's activity.

The band's international breakthrough came with their fifth album, 1973's openly cannabis-themed Catch A Fire—the first record they made for Chris Blackwell's Island Records.

However, just as they had become international superstars, Bunny left the band. Personal tensions within the group were exacerbated by Island marketing them as Bob Marley & The Wailers. Bunny also said the touring schedule conflicted with his practice of the Rastafari faith—citing the pressure to eat processed foods instead of a vegan ital diet, and play "freak clubs" that encouraged booze sales.

Bunny's 1976 album Blackheart Man (and eponymous hit) launched his long solo career. His 1987 hit "Collyman" was an open homage to ganja dealers. He would go on to win three Grammys, including for his 1991 album Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley. In 2017, he was awarded the Order of Merit by Jamaica's government.

Bunny Wailer also launched a new political party in 2000, the Jamaican branch of the pan-Caribbean United Progressive Party. A key plank, of course, was cannabis legalization. He said upon the party's founding: "Ganja is not only for smoking as some people would have you believe... [T]his is something that is needed by the people medicinally and otherwise… We can solve Jamaica's economic crisis through the manufacturing of hemp-based products." (Stereogum, BBC News, People, NPR, Jamaica Gleaner)

Image: Wikipedia




Bunny Wailer's wife still missing

Bill Weinberg's picture Few obituaries have noted that Bunny Wailer's wife, Jean Watt ("Sister Jean"), disappeared last May and remains missing, which may have been a contributing factor in his death. (MEAWW)

It has also been pointed out that one of the original Wailers still survives—back-up singer Beverley Kelso.
Comment by Bill Weinberg on Mar 2nd, 2021 at 9:39 pm

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