(Credit: Peter Verwimp)

Bunny Wailer, the last surviving founder member of the Wailers, dies aged 73

The Wailers success is measurable by reggae’s success. From the humble beginnings of a small Caribbean island, the genre has become a cultural touchstone the world over. This is largely to do with acts like Bob Marley and the Wailers presenting gilded masterpieces to the masses.

Now, tragically, Wailers co-founder Bunny Wailer has passed away at the age of 73. Yesterday the Jamaica Observer contacted his manager Maxine Stowe and received the sad news, “Yes. He died about 8:00 this morning. I’m still right here with him,” she confirmed.

Jamaica’s prime minister later made a statement in tribute to the late musical luminary, offering “deep condolences” to his family, friends and fans, and calling his death “a great loss for Jamaica and for reggae”.

Born Neville Livingston in 1947 in Kingston, he became friends with Bob Marley when the two were just toddlers. Their passion for music developed through the friendship and they later formed the Wailers in 1963, which settled into a core trio of the pair alongside Peter Tosh. They released their debut album, The Wailing Wailers, in 1965 topping the chars locally with ‘Simmer Down’ before going on to be a global cultural sensation. 

Marley moved to Delaware in the US. On a hiatus from music when Bunny Wailer was convicted for marijuana possession in 1967 and served a 14-month sentence.

When Marley returned the groups ranks were bolstered by the likes of production wizard Lee “Scratch” Perry and his group the Upsetters, who helped to form the eponymous line-up the catapulted reggae to rarefied heights with the 1973 release of Catch A Fire.

In 1974 Wailer and Tosh left the act to start solo projects. Wailer landed an acclaimed hit with the record Blackheart Man. The reggae masters departs having won three Grammy awards for best reggae album in 1991, 1995 and 1997 respectively with a golden string of releases. 

The musician had sadly been battling with health issues since suffering a stroke last year.