Robbie Shakespeare, 'Wickedest Bass' in Reggae, Dead at 68

Reggae legend Robbie Shakespeare has died at age 68. Alongside drummer Sly Dunbar, he played with everyone from Black Uhuru to Bob Dylan

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12/9/2021 2:35:00 AM

Reggae legend Robbie Shakespeare has died at age 68. Alongside drummer Sly Dunbar, he played with everyone from Black Uhuru to Bob Dylan

Alongside his Riddim Twins counterpart Sly Dunbar, the bassist played with everyone from Black Uhuru to Bob Dylan across more than four decades

Shiiiiiit.’ I said to him, ‘I want to learn how to play this thing. You haffi teach me.’ Then the next morning he woke me up and started giving me some bass line lessons.”When Barrett joined the Wailers, Shakespeare took his place in the Hippy Boys and also played with the Aggravators, another local band. In 1973, Shakespeare’s life changed when he was invited to hear Dunbar play at a reggae club, Tit for Tat. “I said, ‘Who’s Sly?’ ” Shakespeare

said at Red Bull Music Academyin 2008. “’Sly’s a drummer.’ ‘Alright, come on.’ We went over there and Sly is sitting down on the drums, and I said, ‘Whoa, he can beat a drum. That’s a good sound, I want a session with that youth.’  … We started playing and everyone was jumping, ‘Whoa yeah!’ The studio was packed, and they said, ‘Yeah, that combination is wicked.’ It started from there.”

“The first time we played together I think it was magic,” Dunbarsaid in 2009. “We locked into that groove immediately. I listen to him and he listens to me. We try to keep it simple.”He and Dunbar soon became members of the Revolutionaries, the house band for Jamaica’s Channel One studio. That outfit pioneered the heavily syncopated reggae offshoot that came to be known as rockers. The duo also started their own production company and record label, Taxi. During the mid Seventies the two, known as the Riddim Twins, appeared on classic albums by Tosh and also recorded with nearly every major reggae act, including Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, and Barrington Levy.

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Shakespeare and Dunbar reached a new level of success and renown in the late Seventies when they joined reggae’s biggest band, Black Uhuru. That association led them to Island Records head Chris Blackwell, who soon recruited them for Grace Jones’ genre-smashing

NightclubbingLP in 1981. Starting with albums like those, Sly and Robbie began incorporating more computer-generated rhythms and sounds into their tracks. In 1985, the first year the Grammys included a category for Best Reggae Anthem, the award went to Black Uhuru’s

Anthem, produced by Sly and Robbie.Demand for Sly and Robbie grew, and soon they appeared on albums by Dylan, Jagger, Yoko Ono, Jackson Browne, and Carly Simon. “Bob was one of my all time writers and singers from a long time,” Shakespeareof working on three Dylan albums, starting with 1981’s

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Infidels. “When we worked with Bob, he worked the way we work. He’d just go in the studio and start playing and we’d just jump in. There wasn’t any pressure from him — you’d more pressure yourself to make sure you get the right thing. Which I do, mostly every session, to get the right thing, the right flavor, the right mix.”

Into the 2000s, the duo worked with Sinead O’Connor and also remixed Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me.” In 2020, Shakespeare wasonRolling Stone

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debbopoullo Lola rastaquouère !! One of the players I learned from… I destroyed my vinyl of Dennis Brown’s Brown Sugar playing along to it… a true master of the bass guitar. 😞Rest in Power ah! very sad news Rest In Power Mr. Shakespeare. 😔💔🎼🎸 Geez. Godspeed. 'Big, big loss,” Black Uhuru’s Michael Rose tells Rolling Stone. “Nobody sounds like Robbie. He had the wickedest bass. You’ll never find nothing like that again.”

JohnFugelsang I can recognize his thump anywhere. Music selection for tomorrow settled. JohnFugelsang Meanwhile JohnFugelsang RIP BROTHER ZydecoRocks NOOOOOOOOOOOO One of the greatest of all time. I will always love Robbie Shakespeare

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RIP Robbie 💔💔 RIPRobbieShakespeare 💜✊🏽 Aww man. RIP. RobbieShakespeare & Sly Dunbar did exceptional work on CarlySimonHQ Hello Big Man album. Especially on her version of BobMarley Is This Love Rest In Peace 😢✨💔🕯Rest in Power Mr. Robbie! 🙏✨ 😢 R. I.P I always liked this one (not sure if title is accurate). 'Nipple to the Bottle' from one of Grace Jones' albums is a good one too.

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