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Robbie Shakespeare,prolific reggae bassist,is dead

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Topic: Robbie Shakespeare,prolific reggae bassist,is dead
Posted By: snobb
Subject: Robbie Shakespeare,prolific reggae bassist,is dead
Date Posted: 11 Dec 2021 at 3:46am
As half of the duo Sly and Robbie, he performed or recorded with everyone from Peter Tosh and Grace Jones to Bob Dylan and Serge Gainsbourg.

NEW YORK, NY.- Robbie Shakespeare, a Jamaican bassist who, as half of rhythm duo Sly and Robbie, played with and produced some of the biggest names in music while transforming reggae with bold infusions of rock, blues and jazz, died Wednesday at a hospital in Miami. He was 68.

Guillaume Bougard, a close friend and frequent collaborator, said the cause was complications of kidney and liver transplants.

Starting in the mid-1970s, Sly and Robbie were among the most prolific musicians in the business, reggae or otherwise. Shakespeare once estimated that they had taken part in 200,000 recordings, either their own or as backup musicians or producers for other artists.

Both men came up from the creative cauldron of 1970s Kingston, Jamaica, working as session musicians at the famed Channel One recording studio and playing with reggae superstars like Peter Tosh, including on his 1978 tour as an opening act for the Rolling Stones. That tour gave the duo their first international exposure.

Their sound differed from the melody-rich music of Bob Marley, Jamaica’s biggest star, with a heavier emphasis on the beat and overt influences from rock and blues, qualities that prefigured new reggae styles, like dancehall, that emerged in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

Their willingness to push reggae’s boundaries soon caught the attention of Chris Blackwell, owner of Island Records, who saw the possibility of marrying their sound with North American and European pop acts.

They provided the driving beats on Grace Jones’ hit 1981 album “Nightclubbing.” They were soon working with acts far from the Kingston sound of their youth, like Bob Dylan and Joe Cocker, and producing singers like Marianne Faithfull, Madonna and Sinead O’Connor.

The duo were both hard-core reggae aesthetes and radical innovators, never afraid to break with tradition. Their work with rock musicians led them to fuse rock’s syncopation with reggae’s one-drop beat. And they were among the first musicians to make regular use of electronic drum machines.

“Their whole career has been geared toward creating new stuff, what no one else had done before,” said Bougard, who also licensed some of their work for release in Europe through his label, Tabou1.

They were nominated for 13 Grammy Awards and won two: in 1985 for their production of the Black Uhuru album “Anthem,” and in 1999 for their own album “Friends.”

That was an apt title, because beyond their musical talents, Lowell Dunbar and Shakespeare were known for their close personal bond. They were very different people — Dunbar relaxed and outgoing, Shakespeare quiet and cerebral — but their talents complemented each other’s, and they could often seem like two halves of a single person.

“The longest we’ve been apart in the last 25 years is about three weeks,” Shakespeare told British newspaper The Independent in 1997. “It’s very difficult to be apart for that amount of time. I’ll go on holiday with my family, and as soon as I reach the place I’m going to, I want to be back with Sly, playing music.”


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