Reggae icon Bunny Wailer, born Neville O’Riley Livingston, has passed at the age of 73. The last founding member of The Wailers, alongside Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, Wailer leaves behind a storied musical legacy that popularized Rastafarian culture across the globe.
“He died about 8:00 this morning. I’m still right here with him,” his manager Maxine Stowe said in a confirmation of his passing, per the Jamaican Observer. Wailer passed at the Medical Associates Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. Although no cause of death has been released, local newspapers report that Wailer had been in and out of the hospital since suffering a stroke.
Forming the legendary reggae in band the early 60s with Tosh and Marley, Wailer was known for his percussion in vocals. Their hit classic Simmer Down topped the Jamaican charts in 1964 and from there, the group’s international acclaim skyrocketed. The original founding crew disbanded in 1974 as Wailer left to go solo because touring in the US at “freak clubs” would go against his Rastafarian faith.
Winning three Grammy awards for Best Reggae Album in the ’90s for Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley, Crucial! Roots Classics, and Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley’s 50th Anniversary, Wailer solidified his place among the giants of the genre. He was awarded the Order of Jamaica in 2014 and Order of Merit in 2017 by the Jamaican government. These are the country’s fifth and fourth highest honors. The government also recognized Wailer for his contributions to Jamaican music and the culture in February 2019 with a Reggae Gold Award.
Wailer was the last surviving member of The Wailers. In 1981, Bob Marley passed from cancer and in 1987, Peter Tosh was murdered during a robbery at his home.