Bob Marley and the Wailers bassist Aston Barrett dies aged 77, leaves behind 41 children 

Francis Akhalbey February 05, 2024
Aston “Family Man” Barrett is regarded as one of the pioneering figures of reggae and dub -- Photo Credit: Martin_Raggio

Aston “Family Man” Barrett, the legendary Jamaican reggae musician and bassist for Bob Marley and the Wailers, passed away on Saturday morning at the age of 77. Barrett, who was also known as “Fams”, died at the University of Miami Hospital in Florida, Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, shared on X (formerly Twitter) on the day of his passing. 

“As a bass player, keyboardist and guitarist, he was one of the two famed Barrett brothers, Aston and Carlton, who were part of Bob Marley and the Wailers and Lee Scratch Perry and the Upsetters in the early years of Reggae Music,” Grange shared.

“This pioneer of Jamaican music was also a mentor to many Jamaican artistes and musicians including the ‘Riddim Twins’, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare,” the minister also shared in the statement.

The news of Barrett’s death was also shared on Marley’s official X account. “Anytime we listen to the music pay close attention to the genius of Fams on the bass,” the statement said. 

“A pioneer, unique, trendsetter, revolutionary in the musical space and most of all as his name implies a true family man,” the statement continued. “Condolences to his family. JAH comfort them in this time of grief. The legacy, joy and spirit of Fams lives on.”

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, on November 22, 1946, Barrett is regarded as one of the pioneering figures of reggae and dub. Per The Guardian, Barrett assembled his first bass guitar with plywood, a curtain rod and an old ashtray. 

“When I’m playing the bass, it’s like I’m singing. I compose a melodic line and see myself like I’m singing baritone,” the musician told Bass Player magazine in a 2017 interview.

Besides assuming the role of bandleader of Bob Marley and the Wailers after becoming a member in the 1970s, Barrett also co-produced the band’s albums. He was still a band member when Marley died and even went on tours with other versions of the Wailers. 

“I’ve played before Bob, with Bob, and after Bob and along the way I create a whole new concept of bass playing. That’s just my thing. That’s my destiny,” he told Bass Player.

NME readers in 2015 named Barrett as the 25th greatest bassist of all time. The Jamaican government in 2021 also awarded the musician with the Order of Distinction (Commander class) in the National Honours and Awards, The Guardian reported.

Barrett is reportedly survived by 41 children. He told the BBC in a 2013 interview that he had 23 daughters and 18 sons. “I am the family man,” he said. “I’m gifted with 41 [children].”

His death also comes after Marley’s biopic, Bob Marley: One Love, was premiered in his home country. Barrett’s son, Aston Barrett Jr., plays his father’s role in the movie.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 5, 2024

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