by Howard Campbell
[Kingston, Jamaica] – Having grown up on Bunny Wailer’s music and acted as his stage designer for 10 years, there was no way Bridget Anderson would have missed the reggae legend’s thanksgiving service here on June 17.
Anderson, a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel organization, attended the intimate event at Perry’s Funeral Home in Spanish Town, just outside the capital. She was also part of the motorcade that visited his longtime home in Kingston then Trench Town, where he grew up alongside Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, his colleagues in The Wailers.
Wailer, who died on March 2 at age 73, was laid to rest at Dreamland, his farm in Portland parish.
“I’m happy that the family called me to decorate. It meant a lot for me to decorate the cathedral on his journey to Zion,” said Anderson.
Intimate Thanksgiving Service
The service was attended by Wailer’s 13 children, some of whom read scriptures. Kamarah Livingston, his daughter, eulogized the three-time Grammy winner as a selfless man who was big into empowerment.
“My father firmly believed in the concept of ‘each one teach one’. With that, he was very committed to his community and often assisted children with school fees and books and supported many in the area of sports. His love for education was so great that he even opened a school, Solomonic Elementary,” she told the gathering.
Wailer’s son, Asadenaki, performed songs in tribute to Wailer backed by the Binghistra, a group of Nyabinghi drummers led by famed session guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith.
Andrew Tosh, son of Peter Tosh and Wailer’s nephew, also attended. So too Mark Golding, leader of the Opposition People’s National Party and parliamentarian Alando Terrelonge, who represented the Jamaican government. The service was conducted by Qesis Gebreselassie Samuels of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Wailer suffered two debilitating strokes which effectively ended his career as a performer. His health deteriorated further with the disappearance of Jean “Sister Jean” Watt, his wife of over 50 years in June, 2020.
Watt, who suffered from dementia, strayed from their home and has not been seen since despite an island wide search.
As the procession neared the expansive Dreamland, fans lined the roads and shouted, “Blaze, big up to the legend” and “Forward to Zion, Jah B.”
Bunny Wailer was born Neville O’Riley Livingston in Kingston. He was raised in Trench Town, a tough area which produced a number of future reggae greats such as Delroy Wilson, The Heptones and The Abyssinians.
Bunny Wailer’s Career
His career with The Wailers yielded a number of hit songs including Simmer Down, Lonesome Feeling and Lick Samba. In 1973, he, Marley and Tosh recorded two outstanding albums (Burnin’ and Catch A Fire) for Island Records; late that year, Wailer and Tosh left for solo careers.
Wailer recorded a handful of classic albums including Blackheart Man and Rock ‘N’ Groove.