Original article posted @ The Gleaner on 01/04/2021
Like countless other key industry players across the globe, when Aston Barrett Jr learnt of the passing of legendary singer Bunny Wailer, he was deeply saddened. Throughout his interview with The Gleaner, Barrett Jr, the son of Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, a member of The Wailers, constantly referred to the iconic reggae artiste as ‘Uncle Bunny’, as he reminisced on the relationship Bunny shared with his father. He said although the members of the original group, which also consisted of the late Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, had their differences, Bunny Wailer and his father maintained a good relationship over the years. He said his death was hard on his father, who has been ailing for some time.
“Bwoy, there’s information that you can share and some you can’t. But my father and Bunny Wailer had a good relationship. I only met Uncle Bunny one time, but my father always spoke highly of him. When I woke up that morning (when Bunny Wailer died), I had no idea. I was just scrolling on Facebook, and I saw a post on Blvk H3ro page saying, ‘Rest In Peace Uncle’, and I messaged him and ask wah gwaan, and he told me Uncle passed,” said Barrett Jr.
Shocked by the news, he said it was even harder for his father to hear. “Bunny and my father were good, so much so that when his wife was missing, we sent out people also to help in the search for her because my father told me that Bunny’s wife was the sweetest soul in the world. When we told my father, he was also very shocked, and he expressed that the deaths were just too much. He said Bob Andy passed, Toots passed, U-Roy passed and now Bunny. He said he knew people would one day make their transition, but it was a lot. He was saying the greats are just leaving us, and him did feel it,” he recounted.
Although still deeply saddened by Bunny Wailer’s passing, Barret Jr says some of the headlines surrounding his death are somewhat misleading as they have reported that Bunny was the last surviving member of the original reggae group. Barret Jr said although not a singing member, his father is indeed an original Wailers member and, although ill, is still very much alive. “I understand why they would say Uncle Bunny was the last surviving member of the original Wailers because Bob, Peter and Bunny were the main faces of the group. My father never loved the spotlight, and he wasn’t a singer, but he was there from the beginning,” he said.
Barrett Jr recounted a conversation his father had with Bunny Wailer before leaving Jamaica. “One of the last things my father told me Uncle Bunny said to him before he (his father) left Jamaica was, ‘Fams, a just two a we left now innu’,” he shared, admitting that having his father’s role omitted doesn’t “feel good”. “I don’t feel good to hear people saying Uncle Bunny was the last surviving member of The Wailers because my father is still here, but it all depends on what category people put the members in. I understand that some people only acknowledge the singers, and so when Uncle Bunny passed, they said he was the last member,” Barrett Jr said.
He’d like people to learn the history of the group. “[I] still want people to learn some of the history behind the group, The Wailers. The original group with Bob, Peter and Bunny was broken up from in the ‘70s, and Bob then took the other non-singers and said anyone who plays with me is The Wailers, and my father was a part of Bob’s band after the split,” he said. “My father signed a new contract then, and along with Bob and Carlton Barrett, my father was a part of the ‘reformed’ Wailers who brought the Natty Dread album, etc.,” he continued, pointing out that he and his family haven’t dwelled on those headlines, but still want the history to be known. “We just want people to know the history the proper way, especially Government, so that due respect and credit is given to everyone.”
Speaking of respect, Barrett Jr says he doesn’t believe instrumentalists get enough credit for their contribution to a reggae group. He says singers are usually the most glorified, but non-singers contribute to the band’s overall aesthetic and appeal. “I feel like a lot of the time the artiste dem will take on a different kind of shine, but every member in his own right contributes to the reggae group, and they deserve to be acknowledged as well,” he said.
Having taken over leadership of The Wailers, he said he feels honoured, now more than ever, to carry on the group’s legacy. “I have a responsibility to keep the message of the group moving forward. We still want to use music to make a better world, and that will always be the aim of The Wailers,” he said.