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Aston “Family Man” Barrett has died; he played with Bob Marley & The Wailers

Known as the "Architect of Reggae," he was 77 years old.

Aston Barrett, a Jamaican bassist known as “Family Man” and the rhythmic architect behind reggae legends such as Bob Marley & The Wailers, Burning Spear, and Augustus Pablo, has passed away at the age of 77.

Barrett’s death was announced on Saturday on social media by his son, Aston Barrett Jr.:

“With the heaviest of hearts, we share the news of the passing of our beloved Aston “Familyman” Barrett after a long medical battle. This morning, the world lost not just an iconic musician and the backbone of The Wailers but a remarkable human being whose legacy is as immense as his talent. Our family is asking for privacy during this challenging time, as words cannot express our profound loss”.

Among the most renowned, prolific, and influential studio musicians in Jamaica, Barrett was born in Kingston and, along with his younger brother and drummer Carlton, covered the rhythm section of The Wailers for almost the entire period when Marley was the frontman. He played bass on a series of classic albums ranging from Soul Rebels (1970) to the “posthumous” LP in 1983 (Confrontation).

Almost every iconic song by Marley & The Wailers features Barrett’s bass: I Shot the Sheriff, Get Up, Stand Up, Stir It Up, Jamming, No Woman, No Cry, Three Little Birds, Could You Be Love, Is This Love, and many more.

Barrett, nicknamed “Family Man” for his role as the leader and musical guide of The Wailers, “played a crucial role in introducing the one-drop reggae rhythm to the international audience,” as stated by Rolling Stone US, which included him in the list of the 50 greatest bassists of all time. “But the influence of this ‘Architect of Reggae’ extended well beyond that genre, reaching into pop, R&B, and funk: his bassline in the instrumental track The Liquidator by Harry J. All Stars in 1969 would later directly serve as a model for the success of I’ll Take You There by the Staples Singers, three years later.

In addition to his decade-long tenure with The Wailers, Barrett played with Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Upsetters, The Aggrovators, and King Tubby’s house band, contributing to acclaimed reggae albums by Peter Tosh (Equal Rights), Max Romeo (Revelation Time), Keith Hudson (Pick a Dub), and I-Roy (Truth and Rights), among others.

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