Robbie Shakespeare, Sly and Robbie Bassist, Dies at 68

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Jamaican reggae artist Robbie Shakespeare has died at 68.

The musician was best known as one-half of the iconic reggae duo Sly and Robbie.

The news was announced by Jamaica’s Culture Minister, Olivia Grange.

“[Sly and Robbie] took bass playing and drumming to the highest level as they made music for themselves as a group, and for many other artistes locally and internationally,” she said in a statement.

The Jamaica Gleaner reports that Shakespeare died in Florida following kidney surgery in a local hospital.

Born in Jamaica, the Shakespeare family was highly musical. He says it was his older brother who handed him his first acoustic guitar.

“That acoustic guitar was always about. Anybody could come and pick it up and play it. My brother Lloyd, him and Maxie Romeo, Leroy Brown and Audley Rollins they sang as the Emotions. They would be rehearsing every day and there would be one or two acoustic guitars there so you could just join in,” he told United Reggae. “You know, you come every day, you loiter, take a spliff, you pick up a guitar and play – might be some poom poom or pom pom, might be right or it might be wrong but you just touch it and f*ck around because you’re not really playing anything because you can’t really play nothing.”

He was then taught to play the bass by Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who played with Bob Marley & The Wailers.

Throughout his career, the bassist and record producer was nominated for 13 Grammy Awards and won a Grammy in 1984 for Best Reggae Recording for “Anthem” and then in 1998 for Best Reggae Album for Friends. Shakespeare is credited alongside Sly Dunbar for transforming the sound of reggae and dancehall. The pair worked with several huge names in the music industry, including Gregory Isaacs, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Black Uhuru and Burning Spear. Outside of the island, their discography includes Rolling Stones, Madonna, Sting, Bob Dylan, Britney Spears and U2.

“When it comes to reggae bass playing, no one comes close to having the influence of Robbie Shakespeare,” Jamaican Prime Minister Robert Holness tweeted. “He will be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and Jamaica’s culture.”

Sly and Robbie also released six albums between 1985 and 2014.

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