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M’membe mourns reggae icon Bunny Wailer

SOCIALIST Party leader Fred M’membe has described late Jamaican reggae artist Bunny Wailer as a patriarch and music icon.

Wailer whose real name was Neville O’Riley Livingston, died on Tuesday aged 73.

His death was confirmed by manager Maxine Stowe, and Jamaica’s culture minister Olivia Grange.

The cause of death is unknown, but he had been in hospital since having a stroke in July 2020.

“It’s with deepest sadness to learn of the passing of one of my most favourite artists, the patriarch and Jamaican music icon, the great Bunny Wailer,” said Dr M’membe. “I mourn the passing of this outstanding singer, songwriter and percussionist and celebrate his life and many accomplishments.”

Wailer had been the last surviving member of The Wailers, following Bob Marley’s death from cancer in 1981, and Peter Tosh’s murder during a robbery in 1987.

He played a key role in the development and popularising of reggae music across the world.

Wailer literally grew up with Marley from early childhood.

Marley’s mother and Wailer’s father joined households in Kingston, and later had a daughter together.

In 1963, Wailer and Marley formed The Wailing Wailers with their friend Peter Tosh.

Singers Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith joined the group, but departed within a period of months to a few years.

By 1974 both Wailer and Tosh had departed from The Wailers, in part because the music industry seemed intently focused on making Marley a solo star.

Wailer’s subsequent hits included the songs “Cool Runnings” and “Ballroom Floor,” as well as his 1976 album, Blackheart Man.

He won three Grammys in the early 1990s; in 2017, he was awarded Jamaica’s Order of Merit, one of his country’s highest honours.

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