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Bunny Wailer, Founding Member of the Wailers, Dies at 73

UNITED KINGDOM - CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bunny Wailer (Photo by David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Bunny Wailer, the reggae icon who was the last living original member of the Wailers, has died at the age of 73. According to the Jamaican Observer, Wailer’s manager, Maxine Stowe, confirmed that he died at 8 a.m. this morning (March 2) and she was by his side.

No cause of death has been revealed, but the Observer reports that Wailer had been in and out of the hospital since having a second stroke in July 2020.

Born Neville Livingston in Kingston’s Trench Town on April 10, 1947, Wailer and Bob Marley were stepbrothers. The duo, and Peter Tosh, formed the Wailers (then known as the Wailing Wailers) in 1963. Despite breaking up for a brief period in the ’60s when Marley left Jamaica for the U.S. and Wailer went to jail for possession of marijuana, the group became international superstars as Bob Marley and the Wailers in the 1970s. Wailer’s role in the group was laying down the harmonies that became an integral part of the group’s sound.

Despite leaving the group in 1973 to this dislike of touring and his Rastafarian faith, Wailer carved out a successful solo career, in particular with 1976’s Blackheart Man being the standout. That collection featured his single “Dreamland.”

He won three Grammys in the ’90s — a Best Reggae Album award in 1994 for Crucial! Roots Classics and one in 1996 for Hall Of Fame – A Tribute To Bob Marley’s 50th Anniversary. His other Grammy win was for Best Reggae Recording in 1991 for Time Will Tell – A Tribute To Bob Marley.

In 2013, Wailer recorded with Snoop Dogg when he was making his Snoop Lion album.

In 2017, Wailer was awarded the Order of Merit by the Jamaican government and in 2019, received the Reggae Gold Award for his contributions to the country’s music culture.