Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Solomonic Music - The Bunny Wailer Anthology

This collection entitled Solomonic Music has been a long time coming as we finally complete the holy Wailers trinity with this comprehensive look at the life and music of Neville 'Bunny Wailer' Livingston.

Having already completed in-depth articles on both Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, as well as covering The Wailers catalogue as a collective, we will now explore the works of Bunny, both as a member of The Wailers and his solo years from 1974 onwards.

Bunny is quite often noted as the strongest vocalist of the three and his music was always very spiritual and heavily influenced by his Rastafarian beliefs, after the death of Bob Marley he would devote a lot of time in raising awareness of The Wailers legacy and in later years he would adapt to the ever-changing styles of Jamaican music.

For anyone who missed our previous articles on The Wailers, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh (all of which heavily feature Bunny Wailer) then check out these links:

Bob Marley And The Wailers - The Unreleased Studio Sessions 1972 - 1980:

The Wailers - Singles And Rarities 1962 - 1970 (The Early Years):

The Wailers - Singles And Rarities 1970 - 1972 (The Breakthrough Years):

The Wailers - Singles And Rarities 1972 - 1982 (The Island Years):

Intelligent Diplomat - The Peter Tosh Anthology:


Bunny Wailer was born Neville O'Riley Livingston on the 10th of April 1947 in Kingston, Jamaica.

His father, Thaddius "Toddy" Livingston, was a builder and shop owner in the small village of Nine Mile in the parish of Saint Ann whilst his mother, Margaret Freckleton, was said to have lived in Clarendon (another Parish on the border of Saint Ann). Toddy had seven sons with Margaret and nine daughters with her and other women, he would later live in Kingston with Bob Marley's mother Cedella Malcolm.

In his childhood Bunny lived in Nine Mile where he met Robert Marley and the pair struck up a close friendship, when their parents moved to Kingston in the mid 1950's it wasn't too long before Bob and Bunny joined them, sharing a home in the ghetto of Trench Town.

Bunny and Marley were practically family, they shared a half sister named Claudette (who was affectionately called Pearl) and the duo would spend time in the Kingston slums playing football and exploring the new environment where they were now living.

Music in Jamaica at this time consisted of mainly American Rhythm and Blues, Doo-Wop and Rock 'n' Roll which was beamed out from Miami and picked up on radio's across the Caribbean islands, Bunny and Marley would sit in the yard of their government block and listen in on their neighbours transistor radio.

Whilst in his early teens Bunny crafted a makeshift guitar using a large sardine can, a bamboo stick and some copper wire and he and Marley would sit in the yard singing songs by the likes of Sam Cooke or The Moonglows.

By the late 1950's soundsystems were a popular source of new music and a number of them had popped up around Kingston such as Duke Reid's Trojan and Clement Dodd's Downbeat where they would play their latest imported singles from the US by the likes of Fats Domino and Louis Jordan.

                                     {Arthur 'Duke' Reid}                   {Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd}

By the end of the decade these soundsystem operators had begun recording music of their own in extremely basic one or two track studios and with the influence of island music such as mento and calypso blended with Rhythm and Blues the invention of Ska music began to sweep the nation.

Marley was the first to record a single which he cut for up and coming producer Leslie Kong in 1962 entitled "Judge Not", it's said that Bunny intended to accompany Marley with intentions of recording his own track but he was late arriving for auditions.

Leslie Kong was a Chinese-Jamaican businessman who ran an ice-cream parlour and restaurant, he later created the Beverley's record label when he discovered the talents of the young Jimmy Cliff with whom he enjoyed much success making a name for himself early on in the Jamaican music scene.


                                                                       {Leslie Kong}

Marley's debut single (and a handful of others recorded for Kong) failed to make any kind of impact but shortly after Bunny and Marley befriended another young musical hopeful named Winston McKintosh (who everybody knew as Peter) and the trio started rehearsing together in the yard of Joe Higgs.
                                                                 {Joe Higgs}

Joe Higgs had been recording songs for Clement Dodd as part of the duo Higgs and Wilson (alongside Roy Wilson) since the late 1950's and he would mentor young talent in his yard in Trench Town. His influence on Bunny, Bob and Peter really helped shape their singing and harmonising techniques and he would remain close to the group for many years.

After some deliberation over what they should name their group (suggestions apparently included The Teenagers and The Roosters) they eventually settled on The Wailers, stories on how they got to this name vary, one suggests it was because their collective voices were crying out in song, another story says it was based upon the Biblical quote of Jeremiah "...For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion...".

Higgs suggested adding another singer to the line-up, an aspiring youngster named Delano 'Junior' Braithwaite (whom Higgs had also been mentoring), as well as the female backing vocalists Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith, The Wailers were rehearsing harder than ever to perfect their sound before Higgs took the group to audition for Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd in 1963.

{The Wailers - Including Beverley Kelso}

                                        {Junior Braithwaite}                      {Beverley Kelso}

Coxsone had opened his recording studio on Brentford Road and named it Studio One, he was producing songs with the young Delroy Wilson when The Wailers came to audition, it's said that at first Coxsone was not impressed by the group and their covers of gospel and doo-wop songs but was struck by their original composition entitled "Simmer Down" which he agreed to record.

The Skatalites were the leading session players in Jamaica and the in-house group at Studio One, they backed The Wailers on most of their earliest recordings, their debut single "Simmer Down" became a huge hit in Jamaica and would lead to a long run of singles.

                                                            {The Skatalites - Studio One}

The Wailers earliest recordings saw lead vocals shared amongst the quartet of Bob, Bunny, Peter and Junior, each getting a chance to shine on a particular song, Joe Higgs had often favoured Marley as lead vocalist and Coxsone would later agree but The Wailers early cuts feature shared leads.


Bunny takes lead on a number of excellent songs during The Wailers early sessions such as "Sunday Morning", "Let Him Go" and "Who Feels It Knows It", he also cut some sides with the young female singer Rita Anderson as the duo Bunny And Rita such as "The Vow" and "Bless You".

                                                             {Rita with The Soulettes}

Rita was performing in the vocal group The Soulettes who were also recording at Studio One, often backing "Little" Lee Perry, a feisty character who was also trying to make a name for himself on the early Jamaican music scene whilst also working as a promotor and selector for Coxsone's Downbeat soundsystem.

                                                                         {Lee Perry}

Lee Perry played a crucial role in the promotion of The Wailers on Downbeat and he occasionally used The Wailers for backing vocals on his own singles such as "Man To Man" and "Pussy Galore".

A few of The Wailers early singles were issued via the UK based Island Records label which had been set up by Edward Seaga to promote Caribbean music abroad where it was picked up in England by Chris Blackwell establishing early ties with the company.

By the mid-1960's Junior Braithwaite had emigrated to America whilst Beverley Kelso and Cherry Smith's role in the group became less important and The Wailers reverted back to the trio of Bob, Bunny and Peter.

                                                             {The Wailers - Studio One}

In 1965 The Skatalites band split with members including Tommy McCook heading over to Duke Reid's Treasure Isle set up, so Roland Alphonso formed The Soul Brothers who picked up proceedings at Studio One and who would back The Wailers during their remaining time at the studio.

Around this time Bob Marley went to stay with his mother, who had emigrated to America, for a temporary period to earn some money. The Wailers had a stock of material to release in Marley's absence whilst Bunny and Peter would make good use of the spotlight to record their own material.

Further songs that feature Bunny on lead vocals from these Studio One sessions include "Jerk In Time", "Rock Sweet Rock", "I Stand Predominate", "What Am I Supposed To Do" and "Dancing Shoes", the latter being a reasonable seller in Jamaica and proving that the group didn't always need Marley to score a hit.


In 1966 Coxsone gathered together what he considered the groups best songs for their debut album "The Wailing Wailers" released in Jamaica on the Studio One label.


The album cover boldly stating "Jamaica's Top Rated Singing Sensations" it features many of their biggest selling singles for Coxsone Dodd such as "Simmer Down", "Put It On" and their revised cover of The Impressions' "People Get Ready" under the title of "One Love".


By the time Marley had returned to Jamaica the music had changed, the fast up-tempo Ska had slowed down into the mellow skank of Rocksteady and Coxsone was focusing his attentions on new vocal groups such as The Heptones and The Gaylads.

To make some money on the side The Wailers started their own label named Wail'N'Soul'M, they would sell their records from a tiny shack on Greenwich Park Road as well as records for Coxsone and other up and coming producers such as Clancy Eccles.

Clancy Eccles was recording at the well equipped Dynamic Sounds studio when The Wailers came to cut some singles with the young producer, one of which entitled "Bend Down Low" was pretty well received but without the capital behind their new label The Wailers could not keep up with demand.

                         {A 1970 Wail'N'Soul'M single - Note the trinity hand logo at the top}

After the visit to Jamaica by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in 1966 all three members of The Wailers became heavily interested in the Rastafari movement which was gaining interest amongst the poor in the Kingston slums. Bunny spent a lot time with a Rasta named Bongo Donald and other Rasta elders who gathered to reason down on Greenwich Park Road.

At these gatherings they would have in depth discussions on African history, philosophy and the teachings of the Bible, there would be drumming and the passing of chalice pipes. These sessions could go on for long periods of time and Bunny was always eager to learn more about black culture.

The Wailers time at Studio One came to an abrupt end when one day Bunny and Peter went to confront Coxsone over payments due to the group, the situation became intense, it's said that Bunny pulled a ratchet knife and dared Coxsone to draw his gun, the police were called and Bunny was caught up in a confrontation with the Denham Town officers.

From that point on Bunny became a prime target for police harassment, he was arrested in 1967 for possession of marijuana and would serve over a year in custody which was spilt between the general penitentiary and working the sugarcane on the Richmond Prison Farm.

The Wailers always had a reputation as being tough, ghetto street boys, even though they themselves avoided and spoke against the rude-boy culture that had seen gun violence and robbery increase across the Kingston slums, but after their altercation with Coxsone word had spread that these were characters to avoid.

By the end of the 1960's The Wailers were almost down and out, they hadn't really clicked with the Rocksteady scene, they had been ejected from Studio One and their label was proving too costly to fund by themselves so they returned to the only producer who would record them, Leslie Kong.

Kong took a chance on The Wailers and together they worked on some new material such as "Do It Twice", "Soul Shakedown Party", "Caution" and the biblical "Go Tell It On The Mountain". Today these recordings are considered classics of the group but at the time they failed to sell in numbers and it seemed The Wailers time in the Jamaican charts was coming to an end.

By 1970 the Rocksteady sound had evolved into the jerky rhythm of early Reggae and a new breed of producers such as Bunny Lee, Winston Holness and Clancy Eccles were dominating the scene. Some of the biggest hits however were coming from the camp of Lee "Scratch" Perry who's session players, known as The Upsetters, were at the forefront of this emerging new genre.

The Wailers had a rapport with Perry from their time together at Studio One and soon after reuniting with the producer they began a period of collaboration that would see the group record some of their finest material to date, working closely with The Upsetters group to create a unique sound and vocal combination that would catapult them back into the Jamaican charts for some time to come.

Working at Randy's studio on North Parade The Wailers and Lee Perry were using top recording facilities and collaborated almost non-stop, the combination of brothers Carlton and Aston Barrett alongside organist Glen Adams came together a treat whilst Perry tightened the overall vocal qualities of group.

Although as with previous producers Lee Perry often favoured Marley on lead vocals and the offerings of both Bunny and Peter were less frequent during their time with Perry, however Bunny did cut some very nice songs such as "Riding High", "Brain Washing" and one of his most enduring songs entitled "Dreamland".

      {The Wailers with Aston And Carlton Barrett of The Upsetters} {Lee "Scratch" Perry}

"Dreamland" would become one of Bunny's trademark songs and one that he would return to on a number of occasions in the near future, The Wailers had cut a version of the song for their own label a few years earlier but the Lee Perry production took it to another level.

Bunny sings the third verse on The Wailers' popular hit single "Keep On Moving", the songs rhythm would be one of Perry's most popular with a number of deejay versions appearing shortly afterward. Bunny was also backing other singers working for Perry at the time such as Dave Barker and Carl Dawkins.


Lee Perry issued the albums "Soul Rebels" and "Soul Revolution" in Jamaica between 1971 and 1972 on his own 'Upsetter' label, the albums feature some of The Wailers best singles which had been massive hits in Jamaica. Perry also used his connections with UK based Trojan Records to get "Soul Rebels" released in Europe but when it failed to make an impact outside of the West Indian community the label declined on the follow up "Soul Revolution".


Leslie Kong also decided to capitalise on The Wailers recent success by releasing an album of material the group had cut for him in 1970, he planned to name the album "The Best Of The Wailers" which infuriated the group.


Bunny confronted Kong about the albums title stating how could it be the best of The Wailers when their best was yet to come but it was too late, the album was pressed and released on Kong's 'Beverley's Records' label in 1971.

Soon after The Wailers had a major falling out with Lee Perry who had declined to mention the sale of the groups music to Trojan Records in England, to the group it was the same old story of the producer making money whilst the artists received very little or nothing for their hard work.

Stories of Bunny's dislike for Lee Perry are well documented, apparently Bunny had given Perry a beating on a number of occasions which led to Perry hiring a bodyguard, in another instance it's claimed that Perry had a small vial of acid on his desk for protection against the hot-headed Wailer.

It also came to light around this time that Marley's wife Rita had been collecting records from Randy's studio, selling them and pocketing the cash for herself, this situation further angered Bunny who would keep a close eye on Rita from then on.

Bunny and Peter would never record for Lee Perry again, the way he had conducted business without their knowledge or input and particularly the lack of financial reward severed any trust they had for the producer and before the group left they took with them The Upsetters drum and bass duo (Carlton and Aston Barret) who officially joined The Wailers.

Around this time Bob Marley was offered the chance to work with Johnny Nash in Sweden, Nash was an American Pop singer who had met The Wailers during his visit to Jamaica a few years earlier, he and his label partner Danny Simms signed the group to their JAD Records with an exclusive publishing deal with Cayman Music.

With Marley once again out of the country Bunny and Peter continued to find work in Jamaica, Peter would freelance as a session player whilst cutting solo singles for producer Joe Gibbs meanwhile Bunny came up with the idea of creating three new labels that The Wailers could use for their own independent recordings.

For the groups collective recordings they would use 'Tuff Gong' which Bunny has said refers to the "tough gang" reputation of The Wailers whilst for Peter's solo releases he created 'Intel Diplo' which was short for intelligent diplomat, Bunny's own material would be issued on the 'Solomonic Music' label which refers to the Dynasty and Wisdom of King Solomon.

Bunny and Peter also moved the Wailers shop base to premises at 127 King Street where they decorated the walls with posters and record sleeves from their various labels.


Marley had travelled with Johnny Nash and Danny Simms to England and they invited the remaining Wailers to join them and to arrange a UK tour. Bunny, Peter and the Barrett brothers flew over but the group would play just a handful of low key gigs whilst Marley continued to write songs such as "Stir It Up" and "Comma Comma" which would be used by Nash on his own upcoming album.

The Wailers did not enjoy their first visit to the UK, particularly Bunny who hated the cold, the bad food and the general conditions the band were faced with and it didn't help when they found out Nash and Simms had departed for Miami, leaving The Wailers stranded in London.

                                                     {The Wailers - In London 1972}

The group turned to freelance promoter Brent Clarke who arranged a meeting with Island Records boss Chris Blackwell, the result of the discussions led to The Wailers signing a two album deal and they returned to Jamaica to start recording their major label debut album "Catch A Fire".


"Catch A Fire" was released on Island Records in 1972, The Wailers recorded the sessions at Dynamic Sounds in Kingston before heavy overdubbing was added at Island's Basing Street studio in London. Marley sings lead on the majority of the album with Peter Tosh leading on two songs whilst Bunny provides some excellent harmony vocals throughout.

The follow up, entitled "Burnin'" would follow a similar blueprint but this time features two Bunny led songs, "Hallelujah Time" and "Pass It On". The group were being promoted heavily by Island Records and made an appearance on UK television music show The Old Grey Whistle Test.

                                 {The Wailers - Stir It Up - The Old Grey Whistle Test 1973}

Bunny recorded two more songs during the "Burnin'" sessions, "Reincarnated Souls" and "The Oppressed Song", neither made the final album but have since appeared on reissues.

The Wailers next tour of the UK was once again a struggle for Bunny, the whole vibe of the place clashed with his heavy Rastafarian beliefs, the lack of 'Ital' food, the excesses of alcohol, the often hostile atmosphere that greeted them at guesthouses, travelling long distances in a cramped transit van with all of their instruments in freezing temperatures.

On top of all that was Bunny and Peter's lack of trust for Chris Blackwell who was clearly pushing Bob as the leader of the group, turning down quality material offered by the duo in favour of Marley's, the final straw came for Bunny when Blackwell announced that the group would tour Rock clubs around the United States.

When Bunny returned to Jamaica he continued to release singles on his 'Solomonic' label credited to The Wailers and indeed he still recorded with the core of the groups musicians but by refusing to tour and promote the Island Records albums he had effectively left the group and their old mentor and friend Joe Higgs would step in to cover for Bunny on the American tour dates.


Some excellent singles can be found from this period including "Arabs Oil Weapon", "Life Line", "Searching For Love" and an updated "Dreamland" complete with a deejay cut from I-Stan.


Bunny also cut a new version of "Pass It On" and the beautiful single "Bide Up" which features Big Youth on the flip with "Black On Black".

In Jamaica the top producers were now experimenting with Dub, a style that expanded upon the instrumental version that would usually appear on a singles b-side, creating rhythm tracks then deconstructing them and adding a variety of effects, echo and reverb. The likes of Lee Perry and King Tubby were leading the way in this new form of music and Bunny was quick to pick up on the potential of Dub music.

By 1974 Bunny's slow realisation that The Wailers were no more was confirmed when Peter Tosh also left the group and the next album on Island Records would be billed as "Bob Marley And The Wailers", the name now describing the group of musicians and not the vocalists with Marley as the leading star.

It's often been claimed that Chris Blackwell started the "Bob Marley And The Wailers" billing when in fact it was Lee Perry who often used the phrasing on his singles and on the issues released via Trojan Records. Perry would also cash in on the groups recent international success by releasing the album "African Herbsman" in 1974, a compilation of tracks from "Soul Revolution" and The Wailers' own productions from their 'Wail'n'Soul'm' imprint.


"African Herbsman" features two tracks of Bunny's, "Riding High" and "Brain Washing", but the release only further angered Bunny and Bob who went to confront Perry over the albums release.

By 1975 Bunny had begun work on his own debut solo album and had discussed the possibility of remaining with Island Records for international distribution, Chris Blackwell agreed to the terms that Bunny set which apparently included a "death clause" in which should anything happen to Blackwell the contract would immediately terminate.

The recording sessions were held at Aquarius studios, a state of the art 24-track recording studio owned by Herman Chin Loy, located at Half Way Tree in central Kingston. The majority of The Wailers are involved musically, Carlton and Aston Barrett provide the drum and bass on much of the album and other Wailers band members such as Tyrone Downie and Earl 'Chinna' Smith chip in too.

Peter Tosh also features heavily providing backing vocals and his trademark rhythm guitar licks, Robbie Shakespear covers bass duties in the absence of Aston Barrett whilst Bob Marley gets a backing vocal credit for "Dream Land" which features the original Lee Perry rhythm with overdubs.


Bunny Wailer's debut solo album, entitled "Blackheart Man", was released by Island Records on September 8th 1976. The albums title track refers to an old folklore tale that Bunny and Bob used to hear as children growing up in the highly superstitious country side of Jamaica:

"The blackheart man lives in perpetual darkness, he carries with him like a robe draped about his head, flowing from it are tangled snake-finger locks, coiled about like the hissing, viperous mane of Medusa.....The blackheart man has no friends, he has no family, he has no home....A stranger to all, he lives in the gullies of the city and the lonely hollows of the country......he entices with candy and fair words all children who dare to stray from their mothers or who stay out past sundown.....He takes them away, never to see their kin again.....He consumes them limb by limb or presents them to Satan as slaves, doomed to work forever on the charred banks of the River Styx.....Take care the blackheart man, children, don't go near him....Take care the blackheart man, for even lions fear him"

The story of the blackheart man was often used in reference to the dreadlocked Rastamen back in the late 1950's and early 1960's when being a Rasta was still considered 'evil' or 'taboo' by most Jamaicans and any devout followers would have to hide in the rural areas of the island living as outcasts, but Bunny adopted the story and transformed it into one of the most beautiful songs, showing sympathy to the blackheart man and encouraging others to do so as well.

The album also features the song "Fighting Against Convictions" which is a direct reference to his prison sentence from some years earlier, it was released as the single "Battering Down Sentence" in Jamaica, "Rasta Man" follows on from the title track by confirming the divinity of his people whilst updated versions of "Bide Up", "The Oppressed Song" and "Reincarnated Souls" fit perfectly.

One of the albums stand out singles was "Armagideon", the biblical epic features a hard rhythm that would be used on a number of future releases including Bunny's own instrumental cut "Anti-Apartheid" which features the lead melodica of Peter Tosh.


Bunny Wailer's "Blackheart Man" was very well received at the time of it's release and it remains one of the most popular and beloved Reggae albums around the world and is often given the praise of being Bunny's masterpiece.

By the end of 1976 Bunny had started recording at Harry Johnson's studio on Roosevelt Avenue in Uptown Kingston where The Wailers had recorded much of their recent "Rastaman Vibration" album but with the majority of Marley's band travelling with him overseas Bunny would assemble an alternative band of session players.

Peter Tosh remained in close contact with Bunny offering his services, Robbie Shakespeare played bass whilst drums were shared between Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace and Mikey 'Boo' Richards, Shakespeare and Richards would eventually feature in the group Word, Sound And Power who would back Peter Tosh on his future world tours.

The horn section of Tommy McCook, Bobby Ellis, Herman Marquis and Richard Hall adds to the overall power of the recordings which were collected for Bunny second album "Protest", released on Island Records in 1977.

The album is a stunning follow up to his debut and features such classics as "Scheme Of Things", "Moses Children", "Quit Trying" and "Wanted Children". It also includes updated versions of The Wailers hits "Who Feels It Knows It" and "Get Up Stand Up" as well as an adapted take of The Slickers' "Johnny Too Bad".

Bunny Wailers' "Protest" was once again very well received amongst the Reggae community but with a lack of real promotion by Island Records and by Bunny, who was still refusing to tour, it failed to breakthrough in the way that Marley's albums had internationally.

The same year Bunny released some excellent singles on his 'Solomonic' label which were also issued by Island Records in the UK including "Bright Soul", "Falling Angel" and "Love Fire".


By 1978 the activities at Channel One studio on Maxfield Avenue in West Kingston were drawing a big crowd, the session group there were known as The Roots Radics and they were quickly becoming the most popular players in Jamaica with their innovative new style.

The core members of The Roots Radics were bassist Errol 'Flabba' Holt, drummer Lincoln 'Style' Scott and guitarist Eric 'Bingy Bunny' Lamont alongside a revolving line-up that more often than not featured Noel Bailey, Dwight Pinkney, Wycliffe Johnson and Headley Bennett.

                                                               {The Roots Radics}

Bunny was extremely impressed by the creative young group, enough so that he would cut his next single entitled "Roots Radics Rockers And Reggae" which was again picked up by Island Records for a European release in 1978.


One thing that becomes noticeable about Bunny Wailer's music from this point on is that because he stayed close to Jamaica and was in tune with the popular sounds and emerging trends his recordings would be far more "Jamaican" than both Bob Marley and Peter Tosh's later offerings, they were both now signed to major international labels when Tosh signed on with EMI subsidiary 'Rolling Stones Records' in 1978.

Marley and his Wailers were following a blueprint set by Island Records that would see them creating 'chart friendly' Reggae that could be easily marketed to European and American audiences whilst Peter Tosh was heading in a more Rock-Reggae orientated direction, touring across the United States in support of The Rolling Stones.

In Jamaica however Bunny was putting together his first Dub album from rhythms taken from his "Blackheart Man" album and some recent singles, the popularity of Dub music in Jamaica and abroad had seen young mixing engineers such as Lloyd 'Prince Jammy' James and Hopeton 'Scientist' Brown making some of the finest creations in the genre.

Marley's camp had not really capitalized on the Dub phenomena, issuing only the occasional mix on the b-side of their singles and even fewer can be found in the back catalogue of Peter Tosh, but Bunny was tuned in to the Jamaican scene and was quick to join in with his own Dub album entitled "Dubd'sco Vol. 1" in 1978.


"Dubd'sco Vol. 1" features mixes of five tracks from Bunny's "Blackheart Man" album, "Battering Down Sentence", "Armagideon", "Fig Tree", "Rasta Man" and "Dream Land" as well as dubs to the singles "Love Fire" and "Roots Radics Rockers Reggae".

Bunny takes full credits for the album with Karl Pitterson and Sylvan Morris noted as engineers on the project which was mixed at Dynamics and Harry J's studios. It was only released through the 'Solomonic' label in Jamaica, it's not clear if Bunny offered it to Island Records or if the label turned it down and it remains difficult to track down a physical copy.

In the same year Bunny contributed music for the soundtrack to the Jamaican film "Rockers" which starred a number of Reggae artists including Leroy Wallace, Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs and Jacob Miller, the movie also heavily features Harry J's studio where Bunny was recording at the time.


Bunny and the core of musicians that had recorded the "Protest" album continued to work at Harry J's on a number of songs and the cream of the sessions resulted in Bunny's third album "Struggle" which was released on 'Solomonic' in 1979.


The album features such songs as "Got To Move", "Let The Children Dance", "The Old Dragon" and his earlier single "Bright Soul", the album credits also feature Errol 'Flabba' Holt of The Roots Radics and drummer Eric 'Fish' Clarke who was a member of The Black Roots Players.

Bunny continued to issue some fine 12'' singles on his Solomonic label around this time including "Wirly Girly" and updates of his Wailers era cuts "Let Him Go", "Rock In Time" and "Riding". A number of these singles were gathered for the long player "In I Father's House" which appeared in 1980.


The sound of Reggae music had once again evolved by the start of the 1980's as the hard driving Roots Rockers that had dominated the scene for several years began to slow down into the brooding skank of Dancehall pioneered by The Roots Radics and the dynamic duo Sly and Robbie.

Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare would join Bunny on his next project which would again be recorded at Harry J's studio with session players Keith Sterling, Winston Wright and Uziah Thompson alongside hornsmen Headley Bennett and Dean Fraser as well as Wailers guitarist Earl 'Chinna' Smith.

The recordings would find Bunny returning to The Wailers songbook, updating old classics with a modern Dancehall vibe and the resulting album would be appropriately entitled "Bunny Wailer Sings The Wailers".


The album was released in Jamaica on Solomonic in 1980 but was also picked up by Island Records who would issue it on their latest subsidiary imprint 'Mango' in the US, it was released on Island's main label in the UK in 1981.

"...Sings The Wailers" features a mix of songs from all three original Wailers, Marley's "Mellow Mood", "Keep On Moving" and "Hypocrite", Peter Tosh's "I'm The Toughest" and "Burial", and Bunny's own "Dancing Shoes", "Dreamland", "I Stand Predominate" and "Walk The Proud Land".

It was immediately followed up by "Dubd'sco Vol. 2" which features dub versions to all but one of the songs from "...Sings The Wailers" with "Dreamland" replaced by "Wirly Girly".


"Dubd'sco Vol. 2" was released on Solomonic in 1981, Island Records did not pick up on the album but Bunny was by now distributing his releases in Europe and America via his own label and connections.

That same year Bunny, along with Sly and Robbie, cut further singles at Harry J's as well as recording at Channel One where some of the most popular new Dancehall was being created. Bunny also produced a 12'' double A-Side single that features Gregory Isaacs singing Bunny's "Sunday Morning" and Dennis Brown's fantastic "Running Around" released on Solomonic.


These sessions resulted in Bunny's next album, the superb "Rock 'N' Groove", which fully embraces the Dancehall sound, firmly contemporary in Jamaica at this time. It was released on Solomonic in 1981.


The album features such gems as "Another Dance", "Jammins", "Dance Rock", the title track "Rock And Groove" and the popular single "Cool Runnings", it also includes an updated version of "Ballroom Floor" from The Wailers early years, all receiving excellent dub mixes too.

In May 1981 Bob Marley died after a long battle with cancer, the Reggae world was shook to it's foundations, none more so than Marley's best friends Bunny and Peter, the latter was accused of not caring about Bob's passing when an Island Records representative quoted Peter as saying "maybe there'll be room for other Reggae artists to gain recognition", although these allegations were most likely an attempt to discredit Tosh.

The obvious reason for their not attending Bob's funeral is because Rastafarians do not acknowledge death in any form and refuse to attended funerals no matter who may have passed. As Peter had sung in "Burial" many years before "...Let the dead bury the dead...and who is to be fed be fed....I ain't got no time to waste on you....I'm a living man, I've got works to do....Natty nah go no one's funeral...".

Bunny would pay his respects by releasing the album "Tribute", which appeared on Solomonic the same year and features eight of Marley's classic songs including "Slave Driver", "Crazy Bald Head", "No Woman No Cry" and "Soul Rebel", all with a Dancehall vibe.

Bunny continued to issue a series of fine 7'' and 12'' singles on Solomonic through 1981 and into 1982 including "The Conqueror", "Galong So", "Collie Man" and "Boderation". He also released some cuts he produced with Paulette ("My Only Love"), Black Skin ("Single Woman") and Wa Da Da ("Reggae Sunsplash") as well as old mentor Joe Gibbs' popular hit "Talk To That Man".


For his next album Bunny returned to Dynamic Sounds studio where he began work on a highly eclectic mix of songs that would blend Reggae with elements of Funk, Disco, Soul and Hip-Hop. Sly and Robbie remained on board whilst the sessions also feature bassist Leebert 'Gibby' Morrison, drummers Mikey Richards and Carl Ayton (of The Bloodfire Posse), guitarists Dwight Pinkney and Earl 'Chinna' Smith, percussionist Uziah Thompson and the horn section of Dean Frazer, Paul Robinson and Junior Chico.

The result was "Hook Line And Sinker" which appeared in 1982 and features Funky-Reggae updates of The Wailers favourites "Simmer Down" and "Soul Shakedown Party" (renamed "Soul Rocking Party") alongside the Disco inspired "Swop Shop" and the Hip-Hop cuts "Back To School" and "The Monkey".


The album was a real curveball and an inventive change in direction for Bunny who had never really experimented with influences outside of Reggae, even more surprising than the album was his appearance live on stage at The Jamaican National Arena in December 1982 for the 'Youth Consciousness Reggae Festival', his first live performance in seven years.

                   {Bunny Wailer - Jammins - Live At The Youth Consciousness Festival 1982}

The concert was recorded and released as "Bunny Wailer - Live!" on Solomonic in 1983 and it captures a vibrant performance that features such hits as "Blackheart Man", "Armagideon", "Ballroom Floor", "Dance Rock" and "I'm The Toughest".


In 1983 Bunny wrote and produced Marcia Griffiths' smash hit single "Electric Boogie" which was originally released on Solomonic before being picked up by Island Records, the b-side, entitled "Electric Rap", features Bunny on the same rhythm.


In the same year Bunny licensed some songs to US based label Shanachie Records who compiled the album "Roots Radics Rockers Reggae" which features such cuts as "Cease Fire", "Rockers", "Love Fire" and "The Conqueror".


By the mid 1980's Reggae music, and in particular Dancehall, was full of slackness, bad-boy deejays who would 'lickshot' and shout 'murder!', but Bunny avoided all that, remaining loyal to his strong beliefs and flying the flag for conscious lyrics and socially responsible Reggae at a time when a lot of the older breed artists were either falling in line with the popular crowd or fading into obscurity.

Musicians were struggling too when the wave of computerized rhythms began springing up around 1984, the studio bosses could cut back on session player costs and build their own rhythms using keyboards and drum machines, they would also start digging into their back catalogue for older rhythm tracks that would be re-cut by the latest emcee's or sing-jay artists.

The motivation of young Jamaicans to learn an instrument and practice until studio ready was becoming a thing of the past, all they now had to do was 'chat pon the mic' with aggression and violence filled lyrics or slack themed subject matter over rhythms created by machines.

Peter Tosh was still spending a lot of time outside of Jamaica, although his association with the Rolling Stones had come to an end his music of the mid-80's was still aimed at a Rock audience as he promoted his cover of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" and toured in Africa.

Bunny however continued to forward conscious Reggae in Jamaica, he assemble the same batch of session players he had been working with over the past few years, this time heading to Tuff Gong studio at 56 Hope Road, where work began on his next album "Marketplace", released on Solomonic and Shanachie Records in 1985.


The album features the singles "Tears In Your Eyes", "Dance Hall Music", "Cool And Deadly" and "Stay With The Reggae", it's a pretty decent release that stands up against a lot of the Reggae that was pouring out of Jamaica at that time.

When asked about the current situation with Jamaican music at the time Bunny was quoted as saying "I know that right now it's Dancehall stuff that sells, it's what is popular with the if that is what they want it's my mission to make great dance music for's escapist....young people need to release the tensions of's not a bad thing".

In 1986 Bunny began working on a project that would attempt to reunite the surviving members of The Wailers, the project would involve original group member Junior Braithwaite and occasional early years vocalist Constantine 'Vision' Walker with Peter Tosh contributing on a smaller scale.

Bob Marley would be included through the use of unreleased vocals he had recorded back in the early 1970's, overdubs were recorded by Bunny's regular batch of sessions players including Sly and Robbie at Channel One where they stripped back the original rhythms and replaced them with a more up-to-date style. The sessions then moved over to Music Mountain studios in Stony Hill.


Bunny attempted to reclaim the 'Tuff Gong' label for the albums release, claiming that as this would be an album by The Wailers (referring to the original vocal group and not Marley's session players) then it should be released on the groups own label.

On paper this looked like a hugely promising project, Bunny and Peter reunited on record after all those years of solo international success, both still considered the figure heads of Reggae music. The project was led by Bunny who wrote much of the new material including "Together Again", "Coolie Plum Tree" and "Dutch Pot" whilst "Music Lesson" was chosen as the lead single.


The single went largely unnoticed due in part to a lack of proper promotion or radio airplay and was ignored completely by mainstream media and the album itself suffered major setbacks when Tuff Gong (then controlled by Island Logic Ltd and the Marley Estate) clashed with Bunny over the use of the label. Peter Tosh soon abandoned the project and a proposed Wailers super tour never happened.

The project was shelved and the sessions wouldn't see released until some six years later when they appeared as the album "The Never Ending Wailers" in 1993, released on the RAS Records label in the US and on Semaphore in Europe. It disappeared without a trace.

On August 16th 1986 Bunny Wailer performed in concert at New York's Madison Square Garden, it was a landmark occasion and with backing from The Roots Radics it was a fantastic set that included the hits "Dreamland", "Rockers", "Blackheart Man" and "Rock 'n' Groove".

Bunny also invites to the stage both Junior Braithwaite and Constantine 'Vision' Walker and the trio perform "Together Again" from The Wailers reunion album.

               {Bunny Wailer - Live At Madison Square Garden, New York City - 1986}

Whilst involved with The Wailers project Bunny had again licensed some singles to Shanachie Records who released the compilation album "Rootsman Skanking" in 1986.


After the disappointment of the abandoned Wailers reunion Bunny headed back to Channel One studio where this time he would record with The Roots Radics band on the album "Rule Dance Hall" which was released on Solomonic in Jamaica and Shanachie in the US in 1987.


The album features the singles "Old Time Sinting", "Reggae In The U.S.A", "Rule Dance Hall" and "Jolly Session" as well as two Marley covers, "Stir It Up" and "Put It On". The combination of Bunny and The Roots Radics makes for a very enjoyable, highly polished and mellow sounding record.

On September 11th 1987 tragedy struck when Peter Tosh was murdered in his home in Kingston, shot point blank during an attempted robbery, the man charged for the murder was Dennis 'Leppo' Lobban, a ghetto roughneck who often begged for money and who had known Tosh for many years.

Just a short time before Tosh was murdered Bunny had produced a single entitled "United Africa" for a young vocalist who called himself Johnny Scar, there had been an argument between Scar and Bunny after rumours spread that the single had sold a million copies in South Africa, when Scar aggressively confronted Bunny about this the disagreement ended with Bunny handing over the records stamper and telling him to get out. It was later revealed to Bunny that Scar's real surname was Lobban and he was the younger brother of Leppo.


Bunny continued to keep himself busy, cutting singles at Channel One, Dynamics and Harry J's including "Botha The Mosquito", a popular track that heavily criticized the South African apartheid regime. He also began to spend a lot of time in seclusion on his 147-acre farm out in Saint Thomas parish where he raised plantain, sugarcane, coffee and coconuts which he sold to the local community.


The run of well received singles from Bunny was rounded off with the release of his critically acclaimed album "Liberation" in 1988 on the Shanachie label.


The album was released with a gate-fold sleeve that features the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights on the front cover. Along with "Botha The Mosquito" were excellent cuts such as "Dash Wey The Vial", "Want To Come Home", "Ready When You Ready" and of course "Liberation".

It was a true return to form for Bunny as he tackled serious subject matter including the hard drug scene, religion, apartheid and current worldwide events in an honest and deeply meaningful way, retaining his conscious themes as he had always sought through his music.

"Liberation" was nominated for the 'Best Reggae Album' award at the 1990 Grammy Awards but eventually lost out to Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers' "One Bright Day".

Bunny would then spend some more time in seclusion on his farm before returning in late 1989 to record the album "Time Will Tell - A Tribute To Bob Marley" which appeared on Shanachie in 1990.


The album features long time friend Marcia Griffiths on harmonies which adds a little 'I-Threes' style charm to the songs which include "Rebel Music", "Redemption Song" and "Belly Full".

It was quickly followed up by another album, "Gumption", which appeared the same year and was recorded at The Mixing Lab on Dumbarton Avenue with session players that included Owen Stewart, Danny Thompson, Chris Meredith and Harry T. Johnson.


"Gumption" features predominantly computerised rhythms, a thing Bunny had managed to avoid throughout the 1980's but had eventually conceded to as the new decade began. It contains a number of covers including The Maytals' "Dog War" and "Never Grow Old", Bob Marley's "Bus Dem Shut" (which had been cut with The Wailers back in the late 1960's) and Johnny Osbourne's "See And Blind".

In 1991 Bunny's album "Time Will Tell - A Tribute To Bob Marley" won the 'Best Reggae Album' award at the Grammy ceremony, the following year "Gumption" was nominated but lost out to Shabba Ranks' "As Raw As Ever".

Further sessions at The Mixing Lab resulted in the album "Dance Massive" which appeared in 1992 on both Shanachie and Solomonic, it finds Bunny seemingly embracing the Ragga scene. even giving a shout out to "Ranking Shabba" at the start of "Girls", a track that replies to Shabba's massive hit single "Trailer Load Of Girls".

It also features the singles "Don Dadda", "Raggamuffin", "Conscious Lyrics" and "Dance Ha Fi Gwan". The album is notable for it's use of some older Wailers era rhythms in an updated style.

For his next album Bunny headed to New York's Power Play Studios where he laid down some digital rhythm tracks with producer Owen Stewart and programmer Chris Meredith which would result in the album "Just Be Nice", it was released by RAS Records in 1993.


The album includes updated versions of "Riding", "Soul Rocking Party", "Ballroom Floor" and "Back To School" as well as his own takes of "Electric Boogie" and "Family Affair". It also contains the anti-drugs single "Hit Back The Crack".

A couple of interesting singles that appeared around this time were "Bawling De A Yard" performed by Wa Da Da alongside Nardo Ranks which was released on the Solomonic label, another features Bunny's "Rise And Shine (Horn Style)" backed on the flip by Courtney 'Shortman' Parker with "Sensiman Rock", that was released on the obscure 'Jah Chalice' label.


In 1994 the Shanachie Records label released the compilation album "Crucial! Roots Classics" which was made up of a number of Bunny's singles from the late 1970's and early 1980's. It was nominated for the 'Best Reggae Album' award, which it won, at the 1995 Grammy's. It was followed up the same year by the superior compilation album "Retrospective".


In the mid-90's there were further legal wrangling's between Bunny and the Marley estate over the rights and handling of The Wailers back catalogue, the situation had involved everybody from Danny Simms and the JAD group, Coxsone Dodd and former Wailers musicians and even the elderly Trench Town man known as Vincent Ford who was the pseudonym songwriter of "No Woman No Cry".

In 1995 Bunny released the two-disc album "Hall Of Fame - A Tribute To Bob Marley's 50th Anniversary" which contains 50 cover versions of Marley's most well-known songs, it features former Wailers band members Aston 'Family Man' Barrett and Junior Marvin alongside a number of Word Sound And Power players such as Mikey Richards and Dwight Pinkney.


The album won Bunny his third 'Best Reggae Album' Grammy at the 1997 ceremony.

                                   {Bunny Wailer With One Of His Three Grammy Awards}

After releasing only a handful of new singles between 1996 and 1999 Bunny returned with the album "Communication" in 2000, released on Solomonic / Tuff Gong, it was another eclectic bag blending Reggae, Hip-Hop, Electronica, Roots and African influences which was pretty well received.


Meanwhile RAS Records reissued "Dubd'sco Volumes One and Two" in 1999, a crucial update of two albums only previously available on Solomonic in Jamaica. Bunny also contributed to the RAS compilation album "Reggae For Kids: Movie Classics" in 2001 with his cover of "Hakuna Matata" from the Disney movie "The Lion King".


In 2001 Bunny appeared on the All-Star compilation charity album "Brothers Keepers #1 - Lightkultur" which was released on the 'Nitty-Gritty' label. The song he contributes to, entitled "I Know You Don't Care". also features Ziggy and Damian Marley, Yami Bolo, Buju Banton and members of Morgan Heritage.
In 2003 the album "World Peace" appeared, again on Solomonic, it features a few tracks from his previous "Communication" LP alongside some updated versions of songs such as "Cease Fire", "Armagedeon", "Warrior", "Power Strugglers" and "Trouble On The Road".


In 2004 Bunny contributed to Damian 'Jr. Gong' Marley's album "Welcome To Jamrock" featuring on the song "Confrontation"

To celebrate The Wailers 40th Anniversary Solomonic / Tuff Gong released the wonderful seven disc box set "The Wailers Legacy" in 2005, limited to just 500 copies, which Bunny had distributed from his base in Jamaica.


The first three discs in the box set are entitled "Musically Speaking" and they feature Bunny telling the story of The Wailers from their beginnings in Trench Town up until the groups involvement with Island Records. As he speaks snippets of the groups songs play gently in the background.

The next four discs are entitled "The Ark Of The Covenant" and they contain over 100 of The Wailers singles and rarities from the groups early recordings at Studio One with Coxsone Dodd right through to their work with Lee "Scratch" Perry and their self-productions of the early 1970's.

The sound quality on these recordings is some of the best available whilst the whole box is nicely put together, from the Ark Of The Covenant design that holds the discs to the 50 page booklet. It's highly recommended although it's an expensive purchase these days.

In 2007 Bunny returned with the album "Rub A Dub", released on Solomonic in the US, it features updated versions of The Wailers' "Feel Alright" (retitled "Rub A Dub With Me"), "Dancing Shoes" and "Stir It Up" (retitled "Rub-A-Dub") as well as the single "Empress" (a duet with Queen Ifrica) and "Pack Up Your Trouble" (with Lady G).

In 2010 Talk TV recorded an excellent interview between Bunny and host Empress in which they discuss much about Bunny's upbringing and life with The Wailers and musical influences, it's well worth checking out:

                                        {Bunny Wailer Interview At Empress Studio - 2010}

In 2013 Bunny released another box set collection entitled "Reincarnated Souls - 50th Anniversary", it features three cd's containing 50 of Bunny's more recent singles and album tracks as well as some new material. It was released on Solomonic and distributed by Tad's Records.


The box set also includes two dvd's, the first features Bunny and Lloyd Brevett (of The Skatalites) discussing the early years of Jamaican music whilst the second features an encounter between Bunny and former Island Records executive Chris Blackwell.

In recent years Bunny has made some controversial allegations against both Chris Blackwell and Rita Marley that have been circulating online for some time, plenty of videos can be found on YouTube and it has been frequently discussed on many Reggae site forums.
Bunny and the Jamaican Rastafari community also had a falling out with American Rapper Snoop Dogg in 2013, Snoop had been to Jamaica to record a Reggae influenced album and spent some time with Bunny and other Jamaican artists but it quickly became apparent that Snoop was just exploiting the culture and music for financial gain.

When Bunny and members of the Rastafarian Millennium Council spoke out against Snoop's declarations that he was the "reincarnated Bob Marley" and that he was now a Rastafarian after changing his name to Snoop Lion, the 'gangsta rapper' fired back with insulting comments aimed at Bunny Wailer. The council responded with "...just because you smoke marijuana and listen to Bob Marley that doesn't make you a Rastaman...".

In 2015 Bunny performed a stunning set at the Rototom Sunsplash Festival in Benicassim, Spain which featured a number of classic Wailers songs such as "Simmer Down", "I Stand Predominate" and "Keep On Moving".

                                {Bunny Wailer - Live At Rototom Sunsplash Festival - 2015}

Bunny appeared on David Rodigan's BBC Radio show in August 2014 where he gave an in-depth interview talking about his classic album "Blackheart Man".

                           {Bunny Wailer Meets David Rodigan - BBC Radio 1Xtra - 2014}

In 2012 Bunny Wailer was awarded The Order Of Jamaica, the country's fifth highest honour and the equivalent of a British Knighthood, rightfully declaring him The Honourable Neville Livingston.

In 2016 Bunny played a month-long tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his debut album "Blackheart Man", the tour included a memorable performance at the B.B. King Blues Club in Times Square, NYC, when asked by reporters if this was a farewell tour Bunny replied "..I would just like to keep on singing Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae music....That is my legacy, to sing for you people and to teach you people of what I've known by singing this music...".


At 70 years old Bunny Wailer continues to teach us about the history of Jamaican music and Rastafarian culture, a scene that he has remained a part of since it's creation. A true standard bearer and leading figurehead of Reggae music, Bunny still lives in Jamaica on his farm and continues to record new music and occasionally tour whilst nurturing the young, up-and-coming talent.

In July 2016 Solomonic linked up with the Japanese based label 'Dub Store Records' and released two wonderful compilation albums, the first was entitled "Solomonic Singles 1: Tread Along 1969-1976" and it features such cuts as "Searching For Love", "Arabs Oil Weapon" and "Life Line".
The second entitled "Solomonic Singles 2: Rise And Shine 1977 - 1986" includes "Anti-Apartheid", "Love Fire", "Trouble Is On The Road Again" and "Galang So". Both have excellent sound upgrades and were released on vinyl and cd, highly recommended!



Solomonic Music - The Bunny Wailer Anthology

Find It Here  ---   :    
Vol. One:!

Vol. Two:!

Vol. Three:!


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