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Aston “Family Man” Barrett, bassist with Bob Marley And The Wailers, dies aged 77

Aston “Family Man” Barrett, the bassist best known for playing with Bob Marley & The Wailers, has died at the age of 77. 

The news was confirmed earlier today (February 3) by Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s Minister for Culture, who wrote: “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.” 

“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.” 

Barrett was born on November 22, 1946, and became a key figure in the early development of reggae music, first gaining fame as a member of The Upsetters, the house band of the visionary producer and singer Lee Perry. 

In 1970, he and his brother, the drummer Carlton Barrett, joined The Wailers’ backing band, shortly before they signed a landmark record deal with Island Records. 

Barrett remained a member of the band for the remainder of Marley’s life, playing on the legendary albums ‘Catch a Fire’, ‘Burnin’’ and ‘Exodus’, among others. He was credited with defining the dub-influenced bass-heavy sound of the music that the Wailers produced, and later became a mentor for Robbie Shakespeare of Sly & Robbie. 

He gained the nickname “Family Man” due to his role as a natural band leader, although it is reported that he went on to father as many as 41 children. 

In 2006, Barrett entered a drawn-out legal battle with Island Records, claiming £60 million in unpaid royalties for his production and songwriting work on the albums, but he was ultimately unsuccessful in his campaign. 

He was named the 25th greatest bassist of all time by NME readers in 2015.

The news arrives less than two weeks before the release of Bob Marley: One Love, the biopic of Marley in which Barrett will be played by his own son, Aston Barrett Jr. The film is released on February 14.

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