ONE of reggae’s cornerstones, Aston “Family Man” Barrett is the musician successive Jamaican ‘builders’ have refused. That changed last week (august 8 2021) when the Government announced the legendary bass man has been appointed to the Order of Distinction (Commander Class).
Barrett, 74, was one of the driving forces behind The Wailers’ sound that helped make Bob Marley a superstar. But, he has never received a national honour from his country.
When he became aware that he is a recipient of Jamaica’s sixth-highest honour, Barrett was pleased.
“He has a constant smile. He’s very happy and excited,” said his son Aston Jr, who added: “It’s about time he and Carly got recognised for what they did for Jamaica and the music.”
Carly is Carlton Barrett, Aston Barrett senior’s younger brother and drummer for The Wailers, who was murdered in Kingston at age 36 in 1987.
From east Kingston, the siblings were members of influential bands such as The Hippy Boys and The Upsetters, which recorded for producers Bunny Lee and Lee “Scratch” Perry. It was while with Perry they backed The Wailers (Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston) on songs like Duppy Conqueror, Small Axe and Mr Brown.
They became the group’s vaunted rhythm section, and when Tosh and Livingston left in early 1974 the Barretts stayed put and were part of the movement that saw Marley to global fame.
They played on Marley’s outstanding albums including Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration and Exodus. When the singer-songwriter died in May 1981 from cancer at age 36, Barrett took over the reins and made The Wailers one of reggae’s best touring bands.
Last year Rolling Stone magazine named “Fams” at number 28 on its list of ‘The 50 Greatest Bassists of All Time’. His long line of admirers and proteges include Jackie Jackson, Miles Davis, Robbie Shakespeare and his son, current drummer for The Wailers.
“He taught me how to play bass and drums. [He] said it’s all about a feel. He taught me how to play keyboards and how to tune the organ to get that Earl “Wya” Lindo [Wailers organist] sound. It’s not right until you get the goosebumps,” the younger Barrett explained.
He says his father no longer plays music because of health challenges that resulted in him retiring from touring three years ago.
Barrett Jr is unable to say if his father will be able to travel to Jamaica and accept his award if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but for now he savours the moment.
“He feels really good knowing that he’s finally getting an honour from Jamaica. We’re all happy,” he said.
Original article posted @ Jamaica Observer
Written by Howard Campbell