Family Man Dead At 77, Days After Son Plays Role In Marley Film.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Barrett was a key figure in the Bob Marley band.
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Aston Barrett, the bass player of the legendary reggae band Bob Marley and the Wailers, has died at the age of 77. “Family Man”, as he was known, was born in 1946 and grew up in the Jamaican capital, Kingston.

Announcing the death, his family said Barrett had been through a “long medical battle” but gave no details.

Barrett’s death was announced on Instagram Saturday by his son Aston Barrett Jr.

“With the heaviest of hearts, we share the news of the passing of our beloved Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett after a long medical battle,” Barrett Jr. wrote. “This morning, the world lost not just an iconic musician and the backbone of The Wailers but a remarkable human being whose legacy is as immense as his talent. Our family is asking for privacy during this challenging time, as words cannot express our profound loss.”

One of Jamaica’s most renowned, prolific and influential studio musicians, the Kingston-born Barrett, along with his younger brother and drummer Carlton, worked as the rhythm section for all but the earliest years of Marley’s musical career, playing bass on a string of classic albums spanning from 1970’s Soul Rebels to the group’s 1983 posthumous LP Confrontation and in concert performances all over the globe.

“The drum, it is the heartbeat, and the bass, it is the backbone,” Barrett once said. “If the bass is not right, the music is gonna have a bad back, so it would be crippled.”


Nearly every now-Legendary song by Marley and the Wailers featured Barrett’s bass work: “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Get Up, Stand Up,” “Stir It Up,” “Jamming,” “No Woman, No Cry,” “Three Little Birds,” “Could You Be Love,” “Is This Love,” and dozens more.

Barrett — dubbed “Family Man” for his patriarchal role as bandleader and musical director of the Wailers — “played a primary role in introducing the sound of reggae’s one-drop rhythm to international audiences,”

Rolling Stone wrote in its list of the 50 Greatest Bassists of All Time. “But the influence of the self-proclaimed ‘Architect of Reggae’ extended far beyond that genre into pop, R&B, and funk: His strutting bass line on the 1969 instrumental track ‘The Liquidator,’ by the Harry J. All Stars, would end up serving as a direct template for the Staples Singers’ smash ‘I’ll Take You There’ three years later.”

While Barrett landed at Number 28 on the Rolling Stone list, his peers held him in higher regard, including legendary reggae bassist Robbie Shakespeare, who mentored under Barrett before founding his own formidable rhythmic duo Sly & Robbie.

“He should be Number One [on the list]. He’s the one who started it all,” Shakespeare told Rolling Stone in 2020. “People think he played on [Bob Marley’s] ‘Concrete Jungle,‘ but I played ‘Concrete Jungle,’ I was just playing a style that was similar [to Barrett, who with the Wailers performed on the rest of Catch a Fire]. But Family Man is the one who kicked my butt; he’s the one who told me to get up and do this.”

“It is with tears in our hearts and eyes that we share the news from Aston Barrett Jr. that his father our beloved friend, musical partner, bredrin Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett has made the transition from the physical world,”

Bob Marley’s official social media wrote Saturday. “Anytime we listen to the music pay close attention to the genius of Fams on the bass. A pioneer, unique, trendsetter, revolutionary in the musical space and most of all as his name implies a true family man. Condolences to his family.”

Bob Marley died from cancer at the age of 36 in 1981. The Wailers continued to perform, with numerous line-up changes and various singers filling Marley’s shoes.

Barrett told the BBC in 2013 that he had fathered 23 daughters and 18 sons. “I am the family man,” he said. “I’m gifted with 41 [children].”

The role of Aston Barrett was played in the recent movie Bob Marley–One Love by his son Aston Barrett Jr.

Sources: Rolling Stone, BBC.
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