Reggae pioneer Bunny Wailer, who founded The Wailers with his childhood friend Bob Marley, died today at Medical Associates Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. He was 73, and had been hospitalized since July following a stroke.
A cause of death has not been released, but his passing was confirmed by Jamaica’s Culture Minister Olivia Grange.
Born Neville O’Riley Livingston, Wailer was the last surviving member of the reggae group that shared his name. He left The Wailers in 1974 to launch a decades-long solo career and was awarded Jamaican Government’s Order of Merit in 2017.
During his 1963-74 tenure with Marley and The Wailers; other co-founder Peter Tosh, Wailer saw their songs “Simmer Down” (1964), “Stir It Up” (1967) and “Get Up, Stand Up” (1973) become national hits. Those songs would go on to become iconic, foundational works of reggae music, with “Stir It Up” becoming an international smash in 1972 for singer Johnny Nash.
Wailer won three Grammy Awards, the first in 1991 for Best Reggae Album (Time Will Tell: A Tribute To Bob Marley) and then in 1995 (Crucial! Roots Classics) and 1997 (Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley’s 50th Anniversary).
Marley died of cancer in 1981, and Tosh was killed in 1987 during a burglary at his home in Jamaica.