by Howard Campbell
SOUTH FLORIDA – There is no greater mentor to Aston Barrett Jr. than his father, the famed Family Man of The Wailers. Over the years, he has benefited from his old man’s life-changing tales and wise counsel.
“He always told me to have a open mind. He and Bob always moved with the times,” he said.
Barrett Senior was not only Bob Marley’s bass player, but his right-hand man. He played on some of The Gong’s classic songs, and also helped arrange and produce them.
So, when Emilio Estefan of the Miami Sound Machine fame and husband of Gloria, approached The Wailers to work on a project early this year, Barrett Jr was ready.
Estefan wrote and produced One World, One Prayer which features Marley’s daughter Cedella, her son Skip, Shaggy and Puerto Rican singer Farruko.
Released in May, it is one of the songs from an album Estefan produced by The Wailers. It is scheduled for release this summer.
“When we first met Emilio, he said, ‘Reggae is coming back differently and reggae is respected, especially in the Latin community. Reggaeton was influenced by reggae’,” recalled Barrett who played drums and bass on One World, One Prayer.
Also featured on One World, One Prayer is The Wailers’ Donald Kinsey, the American guitarist who played on albums by Marley and Peter Tosh.
The initial version of One World, One Prayer was more suited to the Latin market where the Estefans have sold millions of records. When The Wailers came in, they added “the Barrett sound.”
Though just 29 years-old, Barrett Jr has logged countless miles and hours on the road and in the recording studio. He officially joined The Wailers on drums 11 years ago after playing bass for Lauryn Hill and Julian Marley.
His father, who took over leadership of the band when Marley died in 1981, retired from touring three years ago after suffering multiple strokes.
The elder Barrett played on one song for the upcoming album.
While they remain one of reggae’s best touring acts, The Wailers have not had a major hit since Marley died. Everybody Wants to go to Heaven, a song they did with country star Kenny Chesney, was a minor hit in 2008.
Five years later, they did Spread The Love, another song with Chesney.
Aston Barrett Jr. is tight-lipped about the new Wailers set, but believes the association with one of contemporary music’s most successful figures is a shot in the arm for reggae’s most famous band.
“Working with Emilio helps us to move with the times but I have an obligation to keep The Wailers signature sound,” he said.