by Howard Campbell
[KINGSTON, Jamaica] – Naki Wailer remembers the time he came of age as an artist as if it was yesterday. It was February, 2018 as he exited the stage at IRIE FM’s Lifetime Achievement Award show for his father, Bunny Wailer in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital.
He got the coveted endorsement from the old man himself.
“I received my most memorable compliment from him. Jah B sey, ‘You make me feel like mi can put it down ya now’,” recalled Naki.
Wailer died in March, 2021 at age 73. A founding member of The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, he left a bounty of timeless songs such as Cool Runnings, Rock ‘N’ Groove, Ballroom Floor and Armagideon.
Naki — previously known as Asadenaki Livingston — carries on his father’s legacy. His latest song is “Follow The Leader” which acknowledges the Rastafarian faith synonymous with The Wailers.
Whenever he records, the overwhelming shadow of Jah B hovers over him.
“My father has inspired my musical growth mostly through his actions and foundation legacy. He never taught or spoonfed me musically; even with learning to play the guitar he would say, ‘The best way to learn is to teach yourself’. He watched me grow and would brutally critique my songs. It wasn’t until years of trial and error and when he felt I was ready to represent the brand did he bring me on my first international appearance as an opening act,” he recalled.
As the world celebrates Father’s Day on June 19, Naki remembers that his father’s benevolence went beyond his 13 children.
“My relationship with my father was a real one. Jah B, as he is affectionately known, was a father to many and embraced his role as the Don Dada. He was extremely kind, yet very blunt and strict. He loved children and believed in education to the point of not only supporting financially-challenged families with school fees, but even opening his own school; Solomonic All Saints,” he shared. “As my father’s first boy, I remember him trying to instill militancy in me, even at a young age. Though my father has a lot of us, and based on his lifestyle we had different mothers, he tried his best to ensure that we grew together and stayed connected to each other as a family even though Jah B wasn’t the stay-at-home dad.”
Born Neville Livingston in Kingston, Bunny Wailer, Marley and Tosh were the most famous members of The Wailers which formed in Trench Town during the early 1960s.
They had a number of outstanding songs including Simmer Down, Lonesome Feeling, Small Axe and Concrete Jungle before splitting in 1973.
Wailer won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album three times. He was awarded the Order of Merit, Jamaica’s fourth-highest honor, in 2017.