The Wailers story

wailers-trio

Bunny Wailer (born Neville O’Riley Livingston, 10 April 1947), also known as Bunny Livingston and affectionately as Jah B,[1] is a singer songwriter and percussionist and was an original member of reggae group The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. A three-time Grammy award winner, he is considered one of the longtime standard-bearers of reggae music. He has been named by Newsweek as one of the three most important musicians.[2]

Early life and the Wailers

The young Livingston actually spent his earliest years in the village of Nine Mile in St. Ann Parish. It was there that he first met Bob Marley, and the two toddlers became fast friends. The boys both came from one parent families; Livingston was being brought up by his father, Marley by his mother.[3] Later, Bunny’s father Thaddeus “Toddy” Livingston lived with Bob Marley’s mother Cedella Booker and had a daughter with her named Pearl Livingston. Peter Tosh had a son, Andrew Tosh, with another of Bunny’s sisters, Shirley, making Andrew his nephew.[4]

Bunny had originally gone to audition for Leslie Kong at Beverley’s Records in 1962, around the same time Bob Marley was cutting “Judge Not”. Bunny had intended to sing his first composition, “Pass It On”, which at the time was more ska-oriented. However, Bunny was late getting out of school, missed his audition, and was told he wasn’t needed. A few months later, in 1963, he formed The Wailing Wailers with his stepbrother Bob Marley and friend Peter Tosh, and the short-lived members Junior Braithwaite and Beverley Kelso. As he was by some way the least forceful of the group, he tended to sing lead vocals less often than Marley and Tosh in the early years, but when Bob Marley left Jamaica in 1966 for Delaware, replacing Bunny with Constantine “Vision” Walker, he began to record and sing lead on some of his own compositions, such as “Who Feels It Knows It”, “I Stand Predominant” and “Sunday Morning”. His music was very influenced by gospel and the soul of Curtis Mayfield. In 1967, he recorded “This Train”, based on a gospel standard for the first time at Studio One.

He was arrested on charges of possession of cannabis in June 1967 and served a 14-month prison sentence.[5]

As the Wailers regularly changed producers in the late 1960s he continued to be underused as a writer and lead vocalist, though was a key part of the group’s distinctive harmonies. He sang lead on “Dreamland” (a cover of El Tempos’ My Dream Island, which soon became Bunny’s signature song), “Riding High”, “Brainwashing” and on one verse of the Wailers’ Impressions-like “Keep On Moving”, both produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry. In 1971, he recorded the original version of “Pass It On” which was released on dubplate and wasn’t widely known until it appeared on JAD’s “Original Cuts” compilation many years later – this version of the song features different lyrics and music in the verses to the later versions of “Pass It On” – Bunny would later reuse these in “Innocent Blood”. By 1973, each of the three founding Wailers operated their own label, Marley with Tuff Gong, Tosh with H.I.M. Intel Diplo, and Bunny Wailer with Solomonic. He sang lead vocals on “Reincarnated Souls”, the B-side of the Wailers first Island single of the new era, and on two tracks on the Wailers last trio LP, “Burnin’“, “Pass it On” (which had been cut as a sound-system only dub plate five years earlier) and “Hallelujah Time”. By now he was recording singles in his own right, cutting “Searching For Love”, “Life Line”, “Bide Up”, “Arab Oil Weapon” and “Pass It On” (a new recording of the Wailers song) for his own label.

Bunny Wailer toured with the Wailers in England and the United States, but soon became reluctant to leave Jamaica. He and Tosh became more marginalized in the group as the Wailers became an international success, and attention was increasingly focused on Marley. Bunny subsequently left the Wailers to pursue a solo career after refusing to tour when Chris Blackwell wanted the Wailers to tour freak clubs in the United States, stating that it was against his Rastafari movement principles.[6]

Barrett Brothers: Robbed of their hard work and contributions to Reggae.

Imagine being a fundamental part of the greatest reggae band ever and having to watch as sales from your work soar, and you can’t even get a penny of the revenue. Imagine playing the music for every song and every album that was released by Bob Marley and the Wailers and then being told that you were nothing but work for hire.

What Island Records, Chris Blackwell and the Marley family did to the Barrett brothers is nothing short of a shameful disgrace and downright wickedness.

Two brothers, two youths from the Jamaican ghetto, neither knowing how to read or write, but both blessed with immense talent to play the most beautiful reggae music the world has ever heard. Today the music from Bob Marley and the Wailers continue to dominate every reggae chart, yet Aston “Family Man” Barrett, (Carlton Barrett died in 1987) gets zero, zilch, and zip from the revenues that the music brings in.

The Barrett brothers joined Bob Marley and The Wailers in 1970. Carlton Barrett was given credit for writing the song “War”, even though it is well known that the lyrics are actually taken from a speech by H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I. Both brothers were given credit for writing “Talkin’ Blues” but after Bob Marley’s death, Rita Marley and Chris Blackwell claim it was a mistake and they were not the writers. Still the Barrett Brothers are featured on all the albums recorded by the Wailers.

Carlton Barrett popularized the one drop rhythm, a percussive drumming style created by Winston Grennan.

Aston “Family Man” Barrett was the bandleader, co-producer of the albums, and the man in charge of the overall song arrangements.

With Carly Barrett’s beats and his brother Aston Barrett’s bass; the Wailer rhythm section planted the seeds of today’s international reggae. Yet neither man was able to reap his fair share from the fruits of his labor. Carly Barrett died in 1987 at the age of 36 and Aston has tried to get his piece of the revenue that the music brings in but with no huge success.

Being illiterate, the Barret brothers got taken advantage of severely by those who knew better. Their lack of business knowledge allowed them to sign into contracts that were less than beneficial to them.

In 2006, Aston Barrett tried one last time to get paid for his hard work by suing Island Records, Chris Blackwell and the Marley family for 60 million dollars but he was not successful.

It would have been enough to give each of his 52 children a little more than 1 million dollars for their father’s unacknowledged contribution to the immortal sound of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

But it was not to be. Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who is the author of the bass line which gave Marley’s late-1970s hits their inimitable rhythm, failed in his latest legal bid for a multimillion-dollar slice of the Marley musical empire.

This was the third time the former friend and colleague of the late Bob Marley had sought financial recompense for his contribution to the Marley sound, having undertaken legal actions in Jamaica and New York in the 1980s which, like yesterday’s ruling, left him waiting in vain.

At the high court in London, he claimed that he and his brother Carlton, a drummer in the band who was murdered in 1987, were still owed up to £60m from a contract signed in 1974 and royalties from six songs they had written. He alleged that after Marley died of cancer in 1981, without leaving a will, his widow, Rita, and Island Records had denied Barrett and his brother access to the wealth generated from sales of Marley and the Wailers’ albums.
It is funny, Bob Marley sung “not one of my seeds shall sit on the sidewalk and be bread”, but we have to wonder how many of Carlton Barrett’s 52 children are begging bread because their father was robbed by the Marley’s family, Chris Blackwell and Island Records.

“Aston Barrett and his brother literally created the sound of the Wailers, though not for a minute to detract from the extraordinary songwriting ability of Mr. Marley,” Stephen Bate, representing the musician, told the judge. “It was the Barretts’ unique sound which brought the Wailers international success.”

The judge, however, agreed with arguments put by Island-Universal and the Marley family that Barrett surrendered his rights to any further royalties in a 1994 settlement in exchange for several hundred thousand dollars. He said: “I conclude that all the claims that Mr. Aston Barrett brings in his personal capacity have been compromised by the settlement agreement.”

So today when fans listen to the brilliant albums from Bob Marley and to Wailers, the Marley family is being paid but not the Barrett family, even though it’s the Barrett’s music complimenting Bob Marley’s lyrics. Since Aston Barrett who can’t read or write settled for less than half a million dollars, he has absolutely nothing else to gain from his brilliant work.

Musicians should learn from this story, that regardless of how great they are at playing music, they must be able to read, write and have an understanding of what they are signing. Better yet, they should always hire an attorney before signing anything

WHAT was the major reason for the break-up of one of Jamaica’s most celebrated trios — The Wailers?

What started out as a sextet back in 1963, was to morph into the trio of Bob, Peter and Bunny — The Wailers in 1966. These three would take Jamaica’s burgeoning music to the world with hits including, Simmer Down, Trench Town Rock, Nice Time, Stir It Up and Get Up, Stand Up. However, by 1974 the trio was to be no more as each began their solo careers.

Many have put their own spin on the break-up. However, at last Tuesday’s Peter Tosh Symposium held at the University of the West Indies, attorney-at-law Miguel Lorne added his voice to the list, offering his take on the issue.

At the well-attended event, the Rastafarian focused on the separation of the original Wailers consisting of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Lorne laid the blame for the breaking up of reggae’s most brilliant triumvirate, squarely at the feet of Chris Blackwell’s approach in handling the group.

He argued that because of Bob’s Caucasian father, Blackwell found it more easier to package and promote Bob to an European market. “Blackwell helped to break-up the group,” he noted, “on the basis that Blackwell felt that he could market Bob Marley to the world. But when he said the world, he really meant the white world.”

The prominent attorney noted that the break-up of The Wailers in the sense of division among Bob, Peter and Bunny, really hurt Peter Tosh. He went on to state that Peter Tosh was so upset with the affair to the point where he began referring to Bob as “the white man son”.

Lorne further noted that when he asked Tosh why was he so bitter against Marley, Tosh told him that Marley should not have agreed to the deal with Blackwell — whom Lorne claims Tosh referred to as “Whitewell”.

“He said from where they were coming from, the struggles that they had gone through, that there was no way when ‘Blackwell’ or ‘Whitewell’ come with this trick, that Bob should not have agreed.”

Island Records celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009,

and is arguably the most prestigious record label in the history of British music. Island Records was founded by Chris Blackwell and Graeme Goodall in Jamaica. Based in the United Kingdom for many years, it is now owned by the Universal Music Group.

Blackwell nurtured and promoted not only the career of Bob Marley, whose death some pundits argued was detrimental to Island Records, but a diverse group of Jamaican artistes.

Before Bob Marley, Blackwell discovered 15-year-old Jamaican singer Millie Small and took her to England in 1963 to record My Boy Lollipop, and successfully marketed her in Europe to become the first million seller in modern Jamaican music.

Blackwell felt that the popularity this record would generate would far outpace the fledgling company’s ability to keep up with sales. Thus, he licensed the song to Fontana and sure enough, six million records were sold worldwide in 1964, marking his entry into the mainstream pop music business.

He was attracted to other Jamaican reggae groups including Toots and the May-tals, Burning Spear, and Inner Circle. After Marley, the 1980s were no different than the 1970s for Blackwell. Island signed new artists who were continually reaching new heights of popularity while simultaneously producing great music. These included recordings by Gregory Isaacs, Sly & Robbie, and Black Uhuru.

However, the story of Blackwell’s relationship with Marley was one of twists and turns with its fare share of disagreements. “Bob Marley was a gamble,” Blackwell is reported to have told a reporter of the Los Angeles Times Magazine. “I gave him £4,000 upfront to make the first album. Everybody said I was mad and I’d never see the money again. I took the risk and trusted him and it paid off many times over.”

And Bob is reported to have told another publication, “Chris Blackwell didn’t help me. I had to work hard while Blackwell flew out and enjoyed himself. But he had the contacts at the time that we felt we needed, and perhaps we did. But Blackwell did a lot for himself. I remember a time when he had 19 Jamaican acts signed, and before my days he wouldn’t touch one.” Marley recorded 10 albums with Island Records, each one of them gold

Barrett Brothers: Robbed of their hard work and contributions to Reggae.

Carlton Barrett, Bob Marley, Aston Barrett Carlton Barrett, Bob Marley, Aston Barrett

Imagine being a fundamental part of the greatest reggae band ever and having to watch as sales from your work soar, and you can’t even get a penny of the revenue. Imagine playing the music for every song and every album that was released by Bob Marley and the Wailers and then being told that you were nothing but work for hire.

What Island Records, Chris Blackwell and the Marley family did to the Barrett brothers is nothing short of a shameful disgrace and downright wickedness.

Two brothers, two youths from the Jamaican ghetto, neither knowing how to read or write, but both blessed with immense talent to play the most beautiful reggae music the world has ever heard. Today the music from Bob Marley and the Wailers continue to dominate every reggae chart, yet Aston “Family Man” Barrett, (Carlton Barrett died in 1987) gets zero, zilch, and zip from the revenues that the music brings in.

The Barrett brothers joined Bob Marley and The Wailers in 1970. Carlton Barrett was given credit for writing the song “War”, even though it is well known that the lyrics are actually taken from a speech by H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I. Both brothers were given credit for writing “Talkin’ Blues” but after Bob Marley’s death, Rita Marley and Chris Blackwell claim it was a mistake and they were not the writers. Still the Barrett Brothers are featured on all the albums recorded by the Wailers.

Carlton Barrett popularized the one drop rhythm, a percussive drumming style created by Winston Grennan.

Aston “Family Man” Barrett was the bandleader, co-producer of the albums, and the man in charge of the overall song arrangements.

With Carly Barrett’s beats and his brother Aston Barrett’s bass; the Wailer rhythm section planted the seeds of today’s international reggae. Yet neither man was able to reap his fair share from the fruits of his labor. Carly Barrett died in 1987 at the age of 36 and Aston has tried to get his piece of the revenue that the music brings in but with no huge success.

Being illiterate, the Barret brothers got taken advantage of severely by those who knew better. Their lack of business knowledge allowed them to sign into contracts that were less than beneficial to them.

In 2006, Aston Barrett tried one last time to get paid for his hard work by suing Island Records, Chris Blackwell and the Marley family for 60 million dollars but he was not successful.

It would have been enough to give each of his 52 children a little more than 1 million dollars for their father’s unacknowledged contribution to the immortal sound of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

But it was not to be. Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who is the author of the bass line which gave Marley’s late-1970s hits their inimitable rhythm, failed in his latest legal bid for a multimillion-dollar slice of the Marley musical empire.

This was the third time the former friend and colleague of the late Bob Marley had sought financial recompense for his contribution to the Marley sound, having undertaken legal actions in Jamaica and New York in the 1980s which, like yesterday’s ruling, left him waiting in vain.

At the high court in London, he claimed that he and his brother Carlton, a drummer in the band who was murdered in 1987, were still owed up to £60m from a contract signed in 1974 and royalties from six songs they had written. He alleged that after Marley died of cancer in 1981, without leaving a will, his widow, Rita, and Island Records had denied Barrett and his brother access to the wealth generated from sales of Marley and the Wailers’ albums.
It is funny, Bob Marley sung “not one of my seeds shall sit on the sidewalk and be bread”, but we have to wonder how many of Carlton Barrett’s 52 children are begging bread because their father was robbed by the Marley’s family, Chris Blackwell and Island Records.

“Aston Barrett and his brother literally created the sound of the Wailers, though not for a minute to detract from the extraordinary songwriting ability of Mr. Marley,” Stephen Bate, representing the musician, told the judge. “It was the Barretts’ unique sound which brought the Wailers international success.”

The judge, however, agreed with arguments put by Island-Universal and the Marley family that Barrett surrendered his rights to any further royalties in a 1994 settlement in exchange for several hundred thousand dollars. He said: “I conclude that all the claims that Mr. Aston Barrett brings in his personal capacity have been compromised by the settlement agreement.”

So today when fans listen to the brilliant albums from Bob Marley and to Wailers, the Marley family is being paid but not the Barrett family, even though it’s the Barrett’s music complimenting Bob Marley’s lyrics. Since Aston Barrett who can’t read or write settled for less than half a million dollars, he has absolutely nothing else to gain from his brilliant work.

Musicians should learn from this story, that regardless of how great they are at playing music, they must be able to read, write and have an understanding of what they are signing. Better yet, they should always hire an attorney before signing anything.

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