Bunny Wailer, Iconic Reggae Singer, Has Died At Age 73 The last founding member of The Wailers died Tuesday in Kingston, Jamaica. After leaving the group in 1974, Bunny Wailer cultivated a distinguished solo career.

Bunny Wailer, Iconic Reggae Singer And Wailers Co-Founder, Has Died At Age 73

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/972832265/972970920" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


A reggae icon, songwriter-singer and percussionist Bunny Wailer died in Kingston, Jamaica, this morning. He was 73 years old and had suffered a stroke last July. Alongside Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, he was a founding member of the Wailers. NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas has this remembrance.


THE WAILERS: (Singing) Simmer down, you lickin' too hot, so simmer down.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Bunny Wailer, born Neville O'Riley Livingston, was just 15 years old when the Wailers had their first hit in Jamaica in 1963 with the song "Simmer Down."


THE WAILERS: (Singing) Simmer down.

TSIOULCAS: The Wailers were a tight-knit group. Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer literally grew up together from early childhood. Marley's mother and Wailer's father had become a couple and had a daughter together. The aspiring singers met Peter Tosh and formed the band eventually known as the Wailers in 1963. And you can hear Bunny Wailer's sweet, high harmonies on some of the band's biggest hits.


THE WAILERS: (Singing) Then I'll satisfy your heart's desire. Said, I stir it...

TSIOULCAS: By the early 1970s, the Wailers had started to see international success, touring England and the U.S. But by 1974, both Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh had left the band, in part because attention was focused on making Marley a solo star. By that point, Wailer was recording singles in his own right and had created his own record label. He viewed his 1976 solo album "Blackheart Man" as an artistic and spiritual triumph, and it became a reggae classic.


BUNNY WAILER: (Singing) Tikya the Blackheart Man, children, for even lions fear him.

TSIOULCAS: In the early 1990s, Bunny Wailer won three Grammy Awards. And in 2017, he was given the Order of Merit by the Jamaican government, one of his country's highest honors. One year earlier, in an interview in New York during his first U.S. tour in more than two decades, Wailer told NPR what he hoped to accomplish.


WAILER: I would just like to keep on singing ska, rocksteady and reggae music. That's my legacy (laughter) to sing for you people and to teach you people of what I've known by singing this music.

TSIOULCAS: For his fans around the world, that legacy is assured.

Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.


WAILER: (Singing) To have you all, my dreamland would be like heaven to me. We'll get our breakfast from the tree. We'll get our honey...

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.