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Bunny Wailer, An Iconic Reggae Pioneer And Bob Marley Partner, Dies In Jamaica At 73

Collin Reid
Jamaican reggae star Bunny Wailer performing at a concert in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2005 to celebrate his late bandmate Bob Marley's 60th birthday.

The Wailers were to reggae what the Beatles were to rock. Bunny Wailer was the last surviving original member — and a Jamaican cultural ambassador.

Jamaican reggae pioneer Bunny Wailer — the last surviving original member of the iconic group best known as Bob Marley and the Wailers — died Tuesday in Jamaica at age 73.

Wailer died at a hospital in Jamaica's St. Andrew parish from complications from a stroke he suffered over the summer.

Crooning classic songs like “Stir It Up,” Bob Marley and the Wailers put reggae on the world's musical map in 1973 with their breakthrough album "Catch a Fire." But the group had formed, originally as just the Wailers, a decade earlier.

The original trio included iconic front man Marley, who died in 1981; Peter Tosh, who died in 1987; and Wailer, whose real name was Neville Livingston.

Wailer, Marley and Tosh were products of Trench Town, the working-class district of Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, which was the birthplace of reggae and a focus of the Rastafarian culture the mellow but soulful musical style has long been associated with.

Wailer, also known as Jah-B, left the group in 1974 for a successful solo career that featured hits like “Dreamland.” In the 1990s he won three Best Reggae Album Grammy Awards — and in this century he was one of Jamaica’s most important cultural ambassadors. In 2017 he received the country's Order of Merit, one of its highest honors.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.