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Robbie Shakespeare has died

The reggae legend was 68 years old

2021 Dec 09     
2 Bit Thugs

He had recently undergone a kidney operation in Florida

Robbie Shakespeare, the legendary reggae bassist known for his work with drummer Sly Dunbar, has died in Florida, at the age of 68. While the cause of his death has not been made public, it is known that he recently went into hospital to undergo a kidney operation.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica on 27 September 1953, Shakespeare was taught to play bass by Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, then of Lee Perry’s Upsetters and later of The Wailers, and first teamed up with Dunbar when they played together in Channel One Studios’ house band The Revolutionaries. 

The pair would go on to become unarguably Jamaica’s most sought-after rhythm section, working with pretty much every reggae musician you can name, and soon made the move into production as well. Later on, in the 80s, they would go on to launch their own Taxi Records label, which helped birth the style then known as “raggamuffin reggae”, and later simply as ragga, with the 1986 Taxi Tour introducing the sound here in the UK.

By that time, the duo’s work already extended far beyond the reggae scene: as in-house musicians at Nassau’s legendary Compass Point Studios, owned and operated by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, they became the go-to rhythm section for international artists as diverse as The Rolling Stones, Robert Palmer, Joe Cocker and Grace Jones.

During his lifetime, Shakespeare was nominated for no fewer than 13 Grammy Awards, and won two – Best Reggae Recording in 1984, for Black Uhuru’s Anthem long-player Anthem, and Best Reggae Album in 1999 for the Sly & Robbie album Friends.

Musicians and producers from across the reggae spectrum and beyond have been paying tribute on social media this morning, but perhaps a better indication of just what an important figure Shakespeare was, is that his death was announced by no less a personage than Jamaica’s minister of culture.

We’ll leave the last word, then, to that nation’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who said on Twitter, simply and entirely correctly:

“When it comes to reggae bass playing, no one comes close to having the influence of Robbie Shakespeare.”

Pic: Tim Duncan/Creative Commons, via WikiCommons





Tags: Robbie Shakespeare RIP, reggae, Sly & Robbie