Legendary reggae artist Bunny Wailer, last living founder of Bob Marley and the Wailers, dies at 73

Rasha Ali, USA TODAY
·3 min read

Reggae artist Bunny Wailer, an original member of Bob Marley and the Wailers, died on Tuesday. He was 73.

The three-time Grammy winner died at the Andrews Memorial Hospital in the Jamaican parish of St. Andrew, his manager, Maxine Stowe, told The Associated Press. His cause of death was not immediately clear. Local newspapers had reported he was in and out of the hospital after a stroke nearly a year ago.

Wailer, a baritone singer whose birth name is Neville O'Riley Livingston, suffered his second stroke in July 2020 and has been in and out of the hospital since.

The Wailers were founded by Marley, Wailer and Peter Tosh in 1963. Wailer was the last surviving founding member after Marley and Tosh died in 1981 and 1987, respectively.

Johnny Nash signed the group to an exclusive publishing and recording contract with his JAD record label, formed in 1967 with Danny Sims, and financed some of the band's recordings.

During an interview with NPR in 2016, Wailer explained why he chose to keep his last name long after leaving the band in 1974.

"Because I didn't leave the Wailers," he said. "I'm still here, representing the Wailers."

Wailer won three Grammys for his work on "Hall Of Fame - A Tribute To Bob Marley's 50th Anniversary," "Time Will Tell - A Tribute To Bob Marley" and "Liberation (Album)."

The Wailers and other Rasta musicians also popularized Rastafarian culture among better-off Jamaicans starting in the 1970s.

Wailer’s death was mourned worldwide as people shared pictures, music and memories of the renown artist.

“The passing of Bunny Wailer, the last of the original Wailers, brings to a close the most vibrant period of Jamaica’s musical experience,” wrote Jamaica politician Peter Phillips in a Facebook post. “Bunny was a good, conscious Jamaican brethren.”

Singer Estelle shared a photo of Wailer, tweeting, "SIP bunny wailer."

Musician Flea also tweeted about Wailer's death.

"Oh man, god bless Bunny Wailer. What a true rocker and noble man. I love him," he wrote.

Though Bob Marley and the Wailers were known for their music, they were also activists calling for action through their lyrics.

In the aftermath of George Floyd's death in 2020, Cedella Marley, 53, told Rolling Stone that her father would've been among the celebrities protesting.

“My father was the voice for the voiceless,” she said. “If he were still here, he would be on the forefronts protesting, he would still be speaking up for those who aren’t being heard.”

Marley, who died of cancer at age 36, would have turned 75 last year, a milestone year that was "all about" celebrating his birthday "through activations in honor of his legacy," his daughter said.

Bob Marley: Daughter Cedella says he would have been 'on the forefronts protesting' today

Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bunny Wailer dead: Bob Marley and the Wailers reggae star was 73