Aston Barrett, known as “Family Man”, bassist for Bob Marley, is dead

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Aston Barrett has played on almost the entire Wailers catalog, in addition to classic albums by Burning Spear, Peter Tosh and countless others.

Aston Barrett, the Jamaican bassist known as the “Family Man” who was the rhythmic architect of reggae legends such as Bob Marley and the Wailers, Burning Spear and Augustus Pablo, has died at the age of 77.

Barrett’s death was announced on social media on Saturday by his son Aston Barrett Jr: “ It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share the news of the passing of our beloved Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett after a long medical battle. This morning, the world lost not only an iconic musician and the backbone of the Wailers, but also a remarkable human being whose legacy is as immense as his talent. »

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Kingston-born Barrett is one of Jamaica’s most renowned, prolific and influential studio musicians. Along with his younger brother and drummer Carlton, he made up the rhythm section for almost the entirety of Marley’s stint as leader of the Wailers, playing bass on a series of classic albums ranging from Soul Rebels (1970) to Confrontation (1983), the group’s posthumous album.

The drums are the heartbeat, and the bass is the spineBarrett once said. If the bass isn’t good, the music won’t stand up, it will be paralyzed. »

Nearly all of Marley and the Wailers’ now-legendary songs featured Barrett’s bass work: I Shot the Sheriff “, ” Get Up, Stand Up “, ” Stir It Up “, “ Jamming “, ” No woman No Cry » and dozens of others.

Barrett, nicknamed “Family Man” for his patriarchal role as musical director of the Wailers, “ played a vital role in introducing the sound of reggae to international audiences”wrote WECB in his list of the 50 greatest bassists of all time. But the influence of the self-proclaimed “ architect of reggae » extended far beyond that genre, to pop, R&B and funk: his bass line on the 1969 instrumental track “ The Liquidator “, by the Harry J. All Stars, ended up serving as a direct model for the success of the Staples Singers” I’ll Take You There “, three years later.

If Barrett was ranked 28th on the list of WECBhis peers held him in the highest regard, including legendary reggae bassist Robbie Shakespeare, who mentored Barrett before founding his own rhythm duo, Sly & Robbie: “ He should be number one (on the list). He’s the one who started it all. People think he played on “Concrete Jungle,” but I played “Concrete Jungle,” I was just playing a similar style (to Barrett, who played with the Wailers on the rest of Catch a Fire). But it was Family Man that kicked my butt; he was the one who told me to get up and do this. »

Every time we listen to the music, we pay close attention to Fams’ genius on basswrote Bob Marley’s official account on the networks. A pioneer, unique, trend setter, revolutionary in the musical space and above all, as his name suggests, a true family man. Condolences to his family. »

Ziggy Marley, Bob’s son, wrote: “ My teacher left. Aston Family Man Barrett, his feeling and his style inspired me, and so many others. We will continue to study his genius for generations and we miss his physical presence, but his spiritual energy and teachings endure. Love to the Barrett family. »

In addition to spending ten years with the Wailers, Barrett also played with Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Upsetters, the Aggrovators and King Tubby, as well as on acclaimed reggae albums by Peter Tosh (Equal Rights), Max Romeo (Revelation Time), Keith Hudson (Pick a Dub) and I-Roy (Truth and Rights), to name a few.

Aston Barrett (who would later give a double meaning to his name “Family Man” by fathering at least 50 children) sued Island Records in 2006, claiming £60 million in unpaid royalties from his work with the Wailers. However, Barrett ultimately lost the case.

Although he did not achieve the financial recognition he desired, Aston Barrett was regularly honored by his bassist peers, notably by the magazine Bass Player who awarded him a lifetime achievement award. In 2021, Jamaica awarded him the Order of Distinction.

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Aston’s music has brought joy to millions and his influence on reggae is invaluableadded Barrett Jr. about his father. He was a man of few words, but his words carried wisdom, kindness and love. His basslines were not only the foundation of The Wailers’ music, but the heartbeat of a genre that touched hearts around the world. »


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.