Neville O’Riley Livingston, the Jamaican vocalist better known as Bunny Wailer, died on March 2 at Medical Associates Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica, at age 73. A founding member of The Wailers alongside Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Wailer went on to become a reggae icon in his own right. Wailer traveled and performed sporadically, each appearance a regal occasion befitting a seldom seen reggae monarch.
Through the release of the albums Catch a Fire and Burnin‘ on Island Records, The Wailers brought roots reggae, their Afro-centric Rastafari way of life (much maligned in Jamaica at the time of their emergence) and their dreadlocked hair, a covenant of that way of life, onto the international stage.
“The Wailers are to reggae what the Beatles are to rock ‘n roll and pop music,” Jamaican music-business veteran Copeland Forbes told NPR. “When they walked into Chris Blackwell’s Island Records office in London, he saw something special in them and against many warnings, he advanced them £4,000 to make an album.”
Forbes, who has worked with some of the reggae industry’s biggest names, including Marley, Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and Marcia Griffiths, has a memoir, My Life in Reggae, due later this year. “Bunny and I were schoolmates from kindergarten and just last night I was editing a chapter about him for my book, so it was shocking to wake up to this sad news,” he said. “The three founding members of the legendary Wailers are now together in Zion, and, as they sang on ‘Rasta Man Chant,’ ‘one bright morning when my work is over, I’ll fly away home.'”
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Wailer, a celebrated singer, songwriter and percussionist also known as Jah B, was born on April 10, 1947. His relationship with Bob Marley predated forming the fabled vocal trio: Wailer