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Aston “Family Man” Barrett Elated on Earning a Jamaica National Honor

Aston "Family Man" Barrett Elated on Earning a Jamaica National Honor
Aston “Family Man” Barrett (file photo)

by Howard Campbell

[KINGSTON, Jamaica] – Better late than never, so the old saying goes. Though in the case of Aston “Family Man” Barrett, earning a national honor in his native Jamaica seemed like an eternity.

The Jamaican government named Barrett the recipient of the Order of Distinction in its annual honors list last week.

Bob Marley’s stalwart bass guitarist, now 74 and recovering from a series of strokes, will receive Jamaica’s sixth highest honor in October.

“He was proud, very happy and excited when I told him. He has a constant smile,” said Aston Barrett Jr, his son.

Barrett senior is from east Kingston. He began his career as a session musician in the late 1960s for producers Lee “Scratch” Perry and Bunny Lee.

A member of several top session aggregations such as The Hippy Boys and The Upsetters, he and his younger brother and drummer Carlton (known as Carly) did a number of songs with The Wailers (Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer) in the early 1970s for Perry. Some of the songs they played on are classics including Mr. Brown, Duppy Conqueror, and Soul Rebel.

In the 1970s as Marley’s fame soared as a solo act, Barrett became his musical director. He also played organ and worked as recording engineer on some of the reggae king’s Island Records albums.

Barrett played bass on seminal albums such as Blackheart Man by Bunny Wailer, Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear, and King Tubbys Meet Rockers Uptown by Augustus Pablo and King Tubby.

When Marley died in May, 1981 from cancer at age 36, Barrett assumed the role as head of The Wailers. Carlton Barrett was murdered in Kingston in 1987 at age 36.

Because of his health challenges, Aston “Family Man” Barrett no longer plays music. His son, The Wailers’ drummer, says being honored by Jamaica means a lot to both of them.

“I feel honored being his son to know my father is a national hero.”

 

 

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