The Wailers

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The Wailers

biography

The Wailers are the most legendary reggae group of all time. Together with former lead singer Bob Marley, the Wailers have sold in excess of 250 million albums worldwide. In England alone, they’ve notched up over twenty chart hits, including seven Top 10 entries. Outside of their groundbreaking work with Marley, the Wailers have also played or performed with international acts like Sting, Kenny Chesney, the Fugees, Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana, and Alpha Blondy, as well as reggae legends such as Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Burning Spear. As the greatest living exponents of Jamaica’s reggae tradition – still led by original bassist and musical director Aston “Family Man” Barrett to this day – the Wailers have completed innumerable tours, playing to an estimated 24 million people across the globe. They have also been the first reggae band to tour new territories on many occasions, including Africa and the Far East.

Their nucleus formed in 1969, when Bob Marley, Bunny “Wailer” Livingston, and Peter Tosh recruited the Barrett brothers – bassist Aston “Family Man” and drummer Carly – from producer Lee Perry’s in-house band, the Upsetters, to play on hits such as “Lively Up Yourself,” “Trenchtown Rock,” and many more. The Wailers, backed by the Upsetters, also recorded two groundbreaking albums for Perry – Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution – for the Trojan label. Of all Jamaican rhythm sections, it was the Barrett brothers who had infiltrated Jamaican music into worldwide pop charts with their work on so many of the records that defined reggae music. So the new Wailers were born, with the marriage between the island’s toughest singer/songwriter and the already internationally successful Barrett brothers’ rhythm section. Inspired by the Rastafarian religion and driven by their ambitions of reaching an international audience, the line-up pioneered roots rock reggae, and signed to Island Records in 1972.

Livingston and Tosh departed the group in 1974. At this point Bob Marley reached out to the Barrett brothers to lead the group into their next phase. In a musical culture in which it was the norm for vocalists working with various rhythm secions, Marley was very protective of his band and discouraged them from playing with other artists. Thus the brothers assumed musical leadership of the Wailers, backing Marley on the group’s international breakthrough album, Natty Dread. Under Family Man’s guidance, they then partnered with Bob Marley on the succession of hit singles and albums that made him a global icon, including Exodus, named “Album of the Century” by TIME Magazine in 1999, which contained “One Love,” deemed “Song of the Millennium” by the BBC.

Drummer Carlton “Carly” Barrett was murdered in 1987, leaving his brother as the main beneficiary of the Wailers' mantle. Subsequent line-ups have revolved around Family Man, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s all-time greatest bass players, confirmed by a recent cover feature in Bass Player magazine. Modest and unassuming, his heartbeat bass was the foundation for all of those unforgettable performances by Bob Marley & The Wailers from the seventies. As Marley’s former right-hand man and the musical director of the group, he is widely acknowledged as the sole living musician who is credible as the Wailers' bandleader. With Fams at the helm, they’re one of the last great reggae institutions,. Year after year, they continue to thrill audiences worldwide, breathing new life into their universally loved music. The current lineup includes keyboardist Keith Sterling, guitarist Chizzy, drummer Anthony Watson, trumpeter Chico Chin, trombonist Everald Gayle and lead singer Elan Atias forming the core axis of the band.

The Wailers recently reaffirmed their continuing relevance and versatility in modern music with a guest spot on country superstar Kenny Chesney’s hit single “Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven,” also appearing in the video for the song, shot in Jamaica. The band is currently working on an album of all-new original material, due for release sometime later this year. 

In the meantime, the Wailers continue to perform to packed audiences around the world, including their international “Exodus” tour, which saw the band playing the full album of the same name onstage, selling out crowds around the world. They haven’t foregone their social consciousness, either: they’ve spearheaded the new charity I Went Hungry, designed to use funds designated for touring bands’ lavish “riders” to benefit the World Food Program (WFP) in conjunction with the United Nations – feeding thousands of starving children around the globe.

Legends in their own time, the Wailers continue to be an active force in today’s music scene, not just with the undeniable influence upon multiple generations of musicians in all genres, but the ongoing spread of their message of peace, love and defiance that began almost forty years ago. Their journey is far from over, and the world is still waiting to catch the Wailers’ next move.

Contact: SERENA PARSONS – serena@primary.uk.com

 

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