Reggae Icon Bunny Wailer Dies at 73

His manager confirmed he passed away in hospital today
Reggae Icon Bunny Wailer Dies at 73
Bunny Wailer — a reggae music luminary and founding member of the Wailers — has died. Wailer's manager, Maxine Stowe, confirmed to the Jamaica Observer that the artist died today at the Medical Associates Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. While a cause of death was not revealed, Wailer had been in and out of hospital since suffering a stroke in 2020. He was 73.

Born Neville O'Riley Livingston in 1947, the artist spent his early upbringing in the village of Nine Mile in St. Ann Parish, where he would become childhood friends with Bob Marley.

While receiving musical instruction from Joe Higgs in Trench Town, the two would meet a young Peter Tosh,and form the Wailing Wailers in 1963 alongside short-lived members Junior Braithwaite and Beverley Kelso.

Livingston would remain a constant through the lineup changes of the Wailers' first decade of activity, singing and playing percussion on internationally successful albums Catch a Fire and Burnin', which both arrived in 1973. 

Both Tosh and Livingstone would depart the group the same year, with the latter delivering debut solo album Blackheart Man as Bunny Wailer in 1976. The album featured contributions from both Tosh and Marley, as well as revered bassist Robbie Shakespeare and Aston and Carlton Barrett.

Livingston recalled to Jamaica's Gleaner in 2009 that Blackheart Man features "all of that is my life's history up to that point." 

"Blackheart Man is really an exceptional album," he continued, "as to the valuation of the message and the amount of people who have received that message and have made themselves better people through them lives within the spiritual and cultural settings that the Blackheart Man exhibits."

The 1990s would see Livingston win a trio of reggae Grammy Awards: Best Reggae Recording in 1991 (Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley), Best Reggae Album in 1995 (Crucial! Roots Classics) and Best Reggae Album in 1997 (Hall of Fame: A Tribute to Bob Marley's 50th Anniversary).

In August 2012, Livingston was awarded the Order of Jamaica, which honours "any Jamaican citizen of outstanding distinction." In October 2017, he was once again recognized in receiving Jamaica's Order of Merit.

Wailer previously suffered a minor stroke in 2018, which affected his speech.