Reggae bassist and famed contributor to staple Bob Marley tracks such as “No Woman, No Cry,” “Could You Be Loved,” “Get Up Stand Up,” and others, Aston “Family Man” Barrett has passed away. The musician died at a Florida-area hospital on Saturday, Feb. 3, after a prolonged medical illness. Barrett was 77 years old.
The bassist’s son and namesake shared the official death announcement on social media, writing, “With the heaviest of hearts, we share the news of the passing of our beloved Aston “Familyman” Barrett after a long medical battle. This morning, the world lost not just an iconic musician and the backbone of The Wailers but a remarkable human being whose legacy is as immense as his talent. Our family is asking for privacy during this challenging time, as words cannot express our profound loss.”
“Aston Barrett was the original bassist for Bob Marley and the Wailers, a pioneer, a mentor, and most importantly, a true family man. His contributions to music were recognized with multiple honors,” wrote his son, who followed with a list of his father’s accolades, including a 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from Bass Player Magazine, 2020’s No. 1 bassist selection from Bass Player Magazine staff, and 2021 honoree for Order of Distinction (Commander class) in the National Honours and Awards on Jamaica’s 59th Anniversary of Independence.
The post continued, “Aston’s music brought joy to millions, and his influence on reggae is beyond measure. He was a man of few words, but his words carried wisdom, kindness, and love. His bass lines were not just the foundation of The Wailers’ music but the heartbeat of a genre that has touched hearts around the globe.
“We extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who has been part of the journey with us. Your love, support, and kind words have been a source of strength during this difficult time. Let us remember Familyman for the legend he was and the incredible memories he has given us. In his own words, ‘The older the moon, the brighter it shines,’ a reminder of the enduring light he shared with us all, shining brighter with each passing day,” he concluded before a final send-off.
Barrett was born on Nov. 22, 1946, in Kingston, Jamaica. As a child, he learned the bass, making his own instrument from scratch. With his brother, Carlton on drums, the bassist began playing with Marley & The Wailers, The Hippy Boys and Lee Perry’s The Upsetters. As an artist, he was best known for his contributions as a bandleader in Marley’s backing band, a co-producer of many esteemed albums, and an integral figure in song arrangements for the ensemble.
Barrett took on the nickname “Family Man” as an ode to his role as a bandleader. The bassist is survived by 41 children. Barrett will be depicted in the forthcoming musical drama Bob Marley: One Love, due for theatrical release on Feb. 14, 2024.
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