Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett of The Wailers Dead at 77

by Howard Campbell

MIAMI – Aston “Familyman” Barrett, whose rock-solid bass lines was the driving force of The Wailers band for over 40 years, died in a Miami hospital on February 2 at age 77.

A close friend of reggae legend Bob Marley, Barrett played on many of the singer-songwriter’s classic songs including No Woman No Cry, Rastaman Vibration, Exodus, and the global anthem, One Love.

Aston 'Familyman' Barrett of The Wailers Dead at 77
Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett (Photo: Instagram)

 His death was confirmed by Wailers manager Lennie Chen, who knew Barrett since 1978 when he toured the United States with Marley and the band.

“His health had been going down….Familyman was a warrior, a genius. Don’t think we will ever see a bass player like him again,” said Chen.

Barrett retired from recording and touring six years ago after suffering several strokes. After Marley died in May, 1981 from cancer at age 36, he assumed leadership of The Wailers which also included his younger brother Carlton, the band’s longtime drummer.

From east Kingston, he earned the nickname Familyman because he fathered many children, reputed to be as high as 43. Self-taught, the Barrett brothers got their start in music as members of The Upsetters and The Hippy Boys bands.

The Upsetters (which also included organist Glen Adams and guitarist Alva “Regie” Lewis) were session players for producer Lee “Scratch” Perry. They played on cutting-edge songs by The Wailers such as Mr. Brown and Duppy Conqueror, produced by the eccentric Perry.

In 1971, they left The Upsetters to join The Wailers which at the time comprised Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny “Wailer” Livingston. They played on Catch A Fire and Burnin’, the trio’s initial albums for Island Records.

Carlton Barrett was murdered in Kingston in 1987 at age 36.

In 2020, Aston Barrett was named number 28 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s The 50 Greatest Bassists of All Time. The following year, he was awarded the Order of Distinction, Jamaica’s sixth highest honor.


South Florida Caribbean News

The SFLCN.com Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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