Neville O’Riley Livingston, better known as Bunny Wailer has died. Wailer is best known for being one of the founding members of The Wailers, a group that also consisted of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. He was 73 years old.
The Wailers formed in 1963 as a Ska band, but evolved their sound into what became known as Reggae. While Ska featured a more punchier upbeat sound, reggae was a slower version that incorporated more in the way of social commentary. The Wailers were a pioneer group in terms of this transition. The band achieved hits with songs such as Simmer Down and Stir it Up. Wailer was a percussionist, but also did some vocals.
Bunny Wailer would leave The Wailers in 1974 to pursue a solo career. He would go on to win three Grammy awards for Best Reggae Album. This included 1991’s Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley, 1995’s Crucial! Roots Classics, and 1997’s Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley’s 50th Anniversary.
In 2017, he won Jamaica’s Order of Merit honor.
Wailer was the last surviving member of The Wailers. In 1987, Bob Marley died of cancer while Tosh was murdered in 1987 during a home invasion.
The tributes from the music world have started to pour in. Shaggy, one of the current contemporary superstars in Reggae issued the following statement on his social media channels:
It’s clear that 2021 will not be a better year than 2020, this is one of the lowest moment in the history of our culture. Bunny Livingston aka: Bunny Wailer founding member and sole survivor of the trio the Wailers is no longer with us. This is a great loss for reggae and the Jamaican people and Reggae fans around the world. You have made us proud king’ rest well. Condolences to the family. R.I.P. Bunny .. your music will forever wail!!!
British Reggae artist Maxi Priest also commented on his solo media channels:
My deepest condolences and prayers to the Livingston family, loved ones, friends, the music fraternity, and fans throughout the world for the passing of The Legend Bunny Wailer. A true LEGEND and PIONEER, founding member of the Wailers, which was not only a band, but a movement for the betterment of the world. A true musical genius that I had the blessings and pleasure of knowing through the power of music. We salute you king for your hard work and dedication that you have given to us all. You will be missed by all whom had the honor to know you, and all who had the chance to see you in action. Your presence will always be felt as you and your music will live. Rest in Zion, King. #gonetoosoon #rip #wailers #bunnywailer #legend #pioneer #reggaelegend
Jamaican Prime Minster Andrew Holness also issued a statement on Wailer’s passing:
Bunny Wailer has made a tremendous impact on the world setting the stage for a global movement a love for Rocksteady and reggae music. His legendary performances have touched the hearts and souls of millions of fans in Jamaica and across the world. Many generations have been privileged to have been exposed to his conscious music.
The cause of death is officially unknown. Wailer had a minor stroke in 2018, followed by another stroke in July, 2020 which left him hospitalized up until his death.
Photo Credit: Peter Verwimp, licensed by CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication.