Aston 'Family Man' Barrett, Bob Marley & The Wailers' Bassist, Dead At 77

Reggae musician Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, who played bass guitar with Bob Marley & The Wailers, passed away this morning (February 3) at the age of 77 after a long illness.

The announcement of the veteran musician’s death was made by his son Aston Barrett Jr on Instagram earlier today.

“With the heaviest of hearts, we share the news of the passing of our beloved Aston “Familyman” Barrett after a long medical battle. This morning, the world lost not just an iconic musician and the backbone of The Wailers but a remarkable human being whose legacy is as immense as his talent. Our family is asking for privacy during this challenging time, as words cannot express our profound loss,” he noted on Instagram.

In citing his father’s accomplishments, Barrett, a singer himself, said his sire was not only the original bassist for Bob Marley and the Wailers, but a pioneer, a mentor, and most importantly, a true family man.

Aston Jr, who also plays ‘Family Man’ in the Bob Marley: One Love movie set for release on February 14, noted that his father had an extensive list of contributions to music, which has been recognized with multiple honours.

“In 2012, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Bass Player Magazine.  In 2020, he was selected as the number-one bassist by the staff of Bass Player Magazine, in their ranking of “20 legendary players who shaped the sound of electric bass.”  In 2021, he was honored with the Order of Distinction (Commander class) in the National Honours and Awards on Jamaica’s 59th Anniversary of Independence,” he wrote.

“Aston’s music brought joy to millions, and his influence on reggae is beyond measure. He was a man of few words, but his words carried wisdom, kindness, and love. His bass lines were not just the foundation of The Wailers’ music but the heartbeat of a genre that has touched hearts around the globe,” he added.

Continued Aston Jr: “We extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who has been part of the journey with us. Your love, support, and kind words have been a source of strength during this difficult time. Let us remember Familyman for the legend he was and the incredible memories he has given us. In his own words, ‘The older the moon, the brighter it shines,’ a reminder of the enduring light he shared with us all, shining brighter with each passing day.  Rest in peace, Familyman. Your legacy will live on forever in our hearts and through the music you’ve left us. We love you and will miss you deeply”.

Ziggy Marley was among those who expressed sadness at the passing of Family Man, whom he hailed as his teacher.

“My teacher is gone. Aston Family Man Barrett, his feel and spaces in his style has inspired me and so many more in our own creation. We will continue to study his genius for generations to come. We will miss his physical presence still his spiritual energy and teachings endures. Love to Aston Barrett Jr, and the entire Barrett family. RIP Father. JAH Live,” Ziggy wrote on Instagram where he shared a photo of Barrett.

Minister of Entertainment Olivia Grange also announced the passing of Barrett on social media and expressed grief.

“I share with you my deep regret at the passing of Aston Francis Barrett, CD, popularly known as ‘Family Man’ or ‘Fams’. As a bass player, keyboardist and guitarist, he was one of the two famed Barrett brothers, Aston and Carlton, who were part of Bob Marley and the Wailers and Lee Scratch Perry and the Upsetters in the early years of Reggae Music,” Grange wrote.

“He died at the University of Miami Hospital in Florida in the United States early this morning.   This pioneer of Jamaican music was also a mentor to many Jamaican artistes and musicians including the ‘Riddim Twins’, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.   As we commemorate Reggae Month 2024, I wish to express my sincere condolences to his wife, his children, his relatives and to members of the local and international Reggae Music fraternity.   May the Angels welcome home Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett to Mount Zion,” she added.

Barrett had joined Bob Marley & The Wailers following the dismantling of the original Wailers when Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh made their exit.

He also played with The Hippy Boys and Lee “Scratch” Perry’s The Upsetters.  

As leader of Marley’s backing band, he was widely regarded as the man in charge of the overall song arrangements.

Among those expressing condolences were Kabaka Pyramid, who took to Aston Jr’s Instagram page to make his sadness felt.

“And he will continue making music in the ancestral realms that resonate throughout the iniverse. Give thanks for his earthly life of absolute greatness,” Kabaka wrote while  Bob Marley’s granddaughter Donisha Prendergast noted.”Give Thanks for your works in defining the music, preserving the legacy and inspiring Reggae to keep wailin.”

“Jah Jah!!! Sincerest condolences! Eternal Gratitude!” said Jesse Royal, while Naomi Cowan noted: “powers. His light shall continue to radiate through his family 🙏🏾.

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