Passing of Aston Barrett: The Enduring Legacy of the Wailers' Bass Icon

Published February 7, 2024

Aston "Family Man" Barrett, the legendary bass guitarist known for his foundational role in the Wailers, has passed away at 77. Renowned for his deep, melodic bass lines, Barrett contributed significantly to the international success of reggae through his performances and production expertise alongside Bob Marley and various other artists. His influential presence in the music world stretched beyond playing—it extended to arranging and co-writing enduring hits that have become synonymous with the reggae genre itself.

Early Life and Musical Beginnings

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1946, Barrett grew up in a musical environment. His passion for the bass guitar led him to craft his own instrument and, alongside his brother Carly on drums, he began his journey into music. The Barrett brothers, through their dedication and skill, eventually joined Bob Marley to form what would become one of reggae's most seminal bands.

The Wailers' Rise to Fame

Aston Barrett's influence was a driving force behind the Wailers' rise to global fame. He played on iconic tracks like I Shot the Sheriff, Get Up, Stand Up, Stir it Up, Jamming, No Woman, No Cry, and Could You Be Loved. His philosophy that the drum and bass were the heart and backbone of reggae underscored his approach to music. Barrett's ability to fuse the drum and bass into a cohesive unit was pivotal in crafting the Wailers' unique and enduring sound.

Legacy and Influence

Through the 1970s and beyond, Barrett's artistry extended to dub music, influencing future generations, including Robbie Shakespeare of Sly and Robbie. The tragic death of his brother Carly in 1987 was a devastating blow, yet Barrett persisted, forming the Wailers Band and later Wailers Reunited. Aston Barrett's commitment to the genre earned him Jamaica’s Order of Distinction, and his legacy persists through his children, including Aston Barrett Jr., who continues to play bass with the Wailers today.

A Life Remembered

Aston Barrett leaves behind an unparalleled musical legacy along with a large family of 23 daughters and 18 sons. His passing marks the end of a chapter in reggae's history, but his influence on the music will resonate for generations to come.

Aston, Barrett, Wailers