Just over a month ago the world lost another music icon – Neville Livingston OM OJ, better known as Bunny Wailer, today would be celebrating his 74th birthday. Alongside Bob Marley and Peter Tosh he was the most prominent of the founding members of legendary reggae group – The Wailers.
During his career that spanned across nearly 60 years, he earned a variety of awards including three Grammys but also Order of Merit (Jamaica’s fourth-highest honour) as well as an Order of Jamaica.
Born in Kingston, to a rum shop proprietor father, he spent most of his early days in Nine Mile village (Saint Ann Parish) and this is where he befriended Bob Marley. Interestingly enough, as they were both brought up by single parents, for a time fate had them to be raised as brothers in the same house in Trench Town.
In 1973, after landing a deal with British label Island Records, the Wailers came to London to work on their album in Ladbroke Grove. This visit, as it turned out, engraved Bunny Wailer as a part of London’s history. A blue plaque with his name is now attached to the façade of the former church on 8-10 Basing Street where two of their studio albums were mixed and overdubbed.
It has to be proudly mentioned that it is likely that the walls of the original Rum Kitchen site in Notting Hill (sadly no longer open) could have been once a place of Bunny’s hang outs.
As the recording studio was based just around the corner from All Saints Road, in the interview for the Islington Tribune, reggae expert Kwaku mentions ‘the Mangrove’ club as one of the reasons why West London suited the band at the time. As some of our older guests may recall, RK was born inside the former club’s walls.
Unlike Peter Tosh and Bob Marley who later in the 70s went on tours with their respective bands, spreading reggae music in various corners of the world, Bunny Wailer chose to remain in Jamaica. He started recording as a solo artist giving birth to a masterpiece album Blackheart Man among many others.
He passed away on March 2nd. He will be remembered as a true spiritual ambassador of reggae music.
by Michal Lament – Content & Systems Manager at Rum Kitchen