Robbie Shakespeare Dies: Influential Producer, Grammy Winning Bassist For Sly & Robbie Was 68

vRobbie Shakespeare Sly Dunbar
Robbie Shakespeare, left, and Sly Dunbar AP Photos

Robbie Shakespeare, whose influential work as a bassist and record producer saw him nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, has died at the age of 68. He died at a hospital in Florida, according to news reports, where he was recently undergoing surgery related to his kidneys.

The Jamaican artist was part of the duo Sly and Robbie with Sly Dunbar.

“When it comes to reggae bass playing, no one comes close to having the influence of Robbie Shakespeare,” tweeted Jamaican prime minister Robert Holness. “He will be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and Jamaica’s culture.”

Sly and Robbie joined forces in the mid-1970s as a producing team. Their work first drew acclaim for the production on Mighty Diamonds’ 1976 album, Right Time.

They went on to work with artists such as the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Sting, Bob Dylan, Britney Spears, U2 and more as a rhythm section and production team. They were credited with introducing the “Rockers” beat.

In the 2011 documentary Reggae Got Soul: The Story of Toots and the Maytals, they were described as “one of the most influential artists ever to come out of Jamaica.”

Shakespeare was nominated for 13 Grammys in his career. He won twice, once in 1984 for Best Reggae Recording for Anthem and then in 1998 for Best Reggae Album for Friends.

In 2020, Shakespeare was placed at No. 17 on Rolling Stone’s greatest bassists of all time list. “I appreciate the fact that others looking in can see what we are doing for the music,” he said of the list. “This makes me feel like a baby.”

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