I believe the reason nobody tells me anything these days is because they won’t tell me when they write my obituary. And so it happened that the backbone of the Bob Marley and the Wailers band, Aston Barret (Family Man) passed on Saturday at a hospital in Miami, Florida.
He was 77. Aston, a bassist built his first guitar from plywood before finding fame with the stringed instrument to become the band leader of BMW. He had trained as a welder. He played for a series of reggae artists including Lee Scratch Perry, Max Romeo, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear etc. He was backup guitarist for many others playing with his brother, Carlton playing the drums. He was recorded to be the mentor of another great bassist, Robbie Shakespeare who passed in 2021 at the age of 68.
News of his death was broken by two of his 41 children, son, Barret Jr and daughter Aiesha Barret whose upcoming birthday has been poisoned by her father’s death. Aiesha says her birthday would be the worst ever. She described her father as the “strongest soldier I’ve ever known”. Son Barret Jr, who has taken after his father and plays bass for the Wailers wrote inter alia “our beloved friend, musical partner, bredrin Aston Family Man Barrett @famsbass has made the transition from the physical world.”
Aston became the true backbone of the Wailers, always seen leading the pack with his strong bass. While acknowledging the role of the drum in reggae, he was quoted by the #BBC as saying that “If the bass is not right, the music is gonna have a bad back, so it would be crippled.”
Since Bob Marley’s death, Aston has been the leader of the Wailers but not without controversy. Twice, he squeezed cash out of the Wailers family for unpaid royalties once receiving millions but a second attempt was rebuffed by the courts.
The obituary did not say what he died of, but that he has battled a series of illnesses. That is expected of a bandleader with mileage of plays, tours and riffs under his belt. In 2021, he was granted the Order of Distinction. May Jah comfort his family in their grief and grant us the grace to keep enjoying the backbone strumming that distinguished tracks like ‘No Woman No Cry’, ‘Natty Dread’, ‘Roots Rock Reggae’ and ‘Jammin’ to mention a few.
Adieu Aston “Family Ma” Barrett.