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Published: Friday, 10/18/2002

Legendary Wailers keep reggae flame burning

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The music and message of reggae icon Bob Marley, who died in 1981 at age 36, live on in many ways - including the tours and recordings of the Legendary Wailers, his former band that will be in concert tonight at the SeaGate Convention Centre.

Leading the Legendary Wailers is Aston “Family Man” Barrett, the longtime bass player, rhythm guitarist, keyboardist, singer, and musical director for Marley.

A native of East Kingston, Jamaica, the 61-year-old Barrett has said that he chose his nickname because “It is a name of responsibility ... I keep the music together.”

He made his first musical instrument by hand from a piece of plywood with a single string to pluck. His brother, Carlton “Carly” Barrett, accompanied on drums using an assortment of empty paint cans.

The Barrett brothers formed their first band, the Hippy Boys, in 1965, later renamed the Upsetters, and recorded a No. 4 hit on the British charts, “Return to Django,” in 1969.

The two siblings were invited by Marley to join his band in 1969 when the music centered on the vocals of Marley, Peter Tosh, and Neville “Bunny” Livingstone. After Tosh and Livingstone departed in the early 1970s, Marley leaned on “Family Man” to help put together the Wailers' lineup and forge its musical direction.

The Barretts' first recordings with Marley were both instant classics, “Catch a Fire” in 1972 and “Burnin'” in 1973.While Marley was a major star in Jamaica long before his music caught on in the United States, many reggae observers credit “Family Man” for helping to achieve the global breakthrough in 1974 with “Natty Dread.” That landmark Wailers' album, often hailed as Marley's finest work, featured an absorbing mix of American and Jamaican rhythms and harmonies.

Marley was 36 when he succumbed to cancer in 1981.

Carly Barrett also suffered a tragic fate at 36. The younger Barrett was found murdered in Jamaica in April, 1987.

“Family Man” has said it was a struggle to keep the band going after the loss of his brother, but he decided that the world needed to hear more of Bob Marley's music and message. Other longtime members of the Legendary Wailers include guitarist Al Anderson and organist-keyboardist Earl “Way” Lindo.

The Legendary Wailers will be in concert at 8 tonight at the SeaGate Convention Centre, 401 Jefferson Ave., with Boston group John Brown's Body opening. Tickets are $24 at the door. Information: 419-255-3300.



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