KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Bunny Wailer, a reggae luminary who was the last surviving founding member of the legendary group The Wailers, died on Tuesday in his native Jamaica. He was 73.
Wailer, a baritone singer whose birth name is Neville Livingston, formed The Wailers in 1963 with late superstars Bob Marley and Peter Tosh when they lived in a slum in the capital of Kingston. They catapulted to international fame with the album, “Catch a Fire" and also helped popularize Rastafarian culture among better-off Jamaicans starting in the 1970s.
“Jah-B was a vanguard, always pushing the boundaries of expression, whether in song, in style or in spoken word,” said Brian Paul Welsh, a local reggae musician known as Blvk H3ro. “There was and can only ever be one Neville Livingston.”
Wailer died at Andrews Memorial Hospital in the Jamaican parish of St. Andrew of complications from a stroke in July, manager Maxine Stowe told The Associated Press.
His death was mourned worldwide as people shared music, memories and pictures of the renowned artist.
“The passing of Bunny Wailer, the last of the original Wailers, brings to a close the most vibrant period of Jamaica’s musical experience,” wrote Jamaica politician Peter Phillips in a Facebook post. “Bunny was a good, conscious Jamaican brethren.”
Jamaica's Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, also paid tribute to Wailer, calling him “a respected elder statesman of the Jamaican music scene,” in a series of tweets.
“This is a great loss for Jamaica and for Reggae, undoubtedly Bunny Wailer will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and Jamaica’s culture,” he wrote.
While Wailer toured the world, he was more at home in Jamaica's mountains and he enjoyed farming while writing and recording songs on his label, Solomonic.
″I think I love the country actually a little bit more than the city,″ Wailer told The Associated Press in 1989. ″It has more to do with life, health and strength. The city takes that away sometimes. The country is good for meditation. It has fresh food and fresh atmosphere - that keeps you going.″
A year before, in 1988, he had chartered a jet and flew to Jamaica with food to help those affected by Hurricane Gilbert.
″Sometimes people pay less attention to those things (food), but they turn out to be the most important things. I am a farmer,″ he told the AP.
He was the third and last original Wailer. Marley died in 1981 of a brain tumor at 36 years old and Tosh was fatally shot in Jamaica in 1987 at 42 years old.
AP writer Dánica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed.