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Tyrone Downie: No Ordinary Wailer

From Reggae Report, V10 #4 1992

Tyrone Downie is a familiar name and talent to avid followers of Bob Marley and the Wailers. I had always been interested in meeting this renown keyboardist who first played with the Wailers at the ripe “old age” of 13, so I was pleased to hear that he was looking forward to this interview with Reggae Report.

The Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers tour had just finished and Tyrone was in Miami chilling for a while. As a member of Ziggy’s all-star band, memories of Tyrone’s magical keyboards were once again revisited. For the veteran keyboardist, performing with the son of his good friend and mentor was like a page turning in musical history.

His obvious energy and passion for performing was manifested in a warm, engaging smile and the unmistakable twinkle in his eyes that greeted me when he opened the door. Our meeting place was at the home of a friend, complete with a studio where Tyrone could lodge part of his cumbersome collection of keyboards and other musical “toys.” Surrounded by equipment and a big screen television that was tuned to “Video Jukebox,” Tyrone Downie felt comfortable and in the mood to talk.

Tyrone Downie 1992

I went right to the big questions: What was it like being a member of the Wailers during his impressionable teen years? What was it like working with Bob? These answers and more were revealed throughout our two-hour conversation that was as amusing and informative as it was intuitive and insightful.

When Tyrone Downie “officially became a Wailer” in 1975, he already felt like one because he had done studio work with Bob Marley since 1969. It was during this session time, under the tutelage of Aston “Familyman” Barrett, that Tyrone first realized that he was frightened of these Wailers. “They were real tough guys,” he describes, “they were scary.”

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robbie shakespeare

Last Note – Legendary Bass Player Robbie Shakespeare dies at age 68

By Howard Campbell, Observer Senior Writer

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021

LEGENDARY Jamaican bass player Robbie Shakespeare was yesterday described as “one of a kind” by keyboardist Robbie Lyn, one of the many artistes and musicians who rode Sly and Robbie’s Taxi label and had a front-row seat to Shakespeare’s genius.

robbie shakespeare
Robert “Robbie” Shakespeare of Sly & Robbie (Photo by David Yellen/Corbis via Getty Images)

Shakespeare died at age 68 yesterday at his home in Florida, United States.

According to Lyn, Shakespeare’s story transcended music. “He came from a challenged background and made a name for himself. Robbie worked himself into a position as someone to respect,” Lyn told the Jamaica Observer.

No official cause of death was given at press time, but Shakespeare had been ill for an extended period.

He and Lyn had a musical connection that went back to the late 1970s when they were members of Peter Tosh’s Word, Sound and Power band. Along with drummer Sly Dunbar, they played on numerous hit songs, including Walk and Don’t Look Back by Tosh and Mick Jagger, Revolution (Dennis Brown), Love and Devotion (Jimmy Riley), and Baltimore (The Tamlins). Continue reading

An Unforgettable Day

By M. Peggy Quattro, Contributor  ◊  Jamaica Observer, May 11, 2021

BOB Marley’s dead. Wow. It’s May 11, 1981. Around 11:45 a.m. on my first day of my dream job, the phone rings. Freshly hired as Don Taylor’s assistant, I merrily answered, “Good morning, Don Taylor Artiste Management.” Rita Marley uttered one word…“Don.” With slight trepidation, I handed the phone to my new boss standing next to me. By the look of dread on Don’s face, it was obvious that our world was about to change.

Don Taylor’s Miami-based company, D.T.A.M., represented Reggae’s ‘Big Three’ – Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, and Gregory Isaacs. Prior to my first day, I had dreams of one day meeting Bob Marley. Even though I knew he was very sick and en route to his home in Jamaica, I had hope. Going in as a huge Marley fan, I never dreamed that this day, this one event, would inexplicably link us for life.

“Why today, Bob?”, I asked myself again and again. There had to be some reason I was chosen to be in this office, on this morning. Within hours, I was witness to – nay, a participant in – Reggae music history. A day that began with excitement, anticipation, and promise ended with sadness, bewilderment, and deception.

The King had gone home to Zion… Long live the King.    

Reggae Artists Remember Bob Marley from 1984

In 1984, we asked performers & personalities this same question:

What Was the One Thing That Impressed You the Most About Bob Marley?

Here’s what they said, as seen in V2#5 1984:

“…Bob’s very great…his music is different from all the rest of Reggae musicians…and well put together.” ~Ansell Collins

“…it’s just him…just the man, really… you know, the man.”  ~Beres Hammond

“…a hard-workin’ man, him work for what him have in life, really…and he’s a good singer and good writer, and I respect everything him done…him pave the way for every other artist in Jamaica.”  ~Gregory Isaacs

“…his talent… for me, it was his talent.” ~Jimmy Cliff

..Bob was a great man…he appreciated people and they related to him…he was a champion of the people…a selfless person…he cared on an international scale for the poor, black and suffering…this was the essence of Bob.”  ~Cindy Breakspeare, Miss World 1976

“… a cool runnings man… just cool…that was one of the things I admired.”  ~Lloyd Parkes, bandleader

“…it’s his range…on one hand it was religion, on the other hand, he was a lover… you know, one has a heavy message, the other you could dance to…” ~Perry Henzell, writer/director The Harder They Come

“…he showed people how to move from poverty to riches… (as in) how to move from Babylon to the Promised Land…”   ~Tony King, Jamaica Tourist Board, Kingston

“…it’s how he was a leader…he had a platform and he stood strong…(and) he allowed me to be creative.”  ~Donald Kinsey, guitarist

“…his song “Smile Jamaica” for personal inspiration…(because) I smile a lot!”  ~Andrew Henry, Kingston Publishers

 

Inside the Vaults of Marley – 1990

(As published in Reggae Report V08#04 1990 – this article has not been updated since its original publication. Any updated information is welcome.) 

By Roger Steffens

Reggae historian & Marley archivist Roger Steffens

Bob Marley, Reggae’s prolific king, has been gone for nine years now and for the first time in that period, there exists a growing hope that the protracted legal battles for control of his life’s work are finally drawing to a close. At stake are millions of dollars in royalties, unreleased material, and properties. Nineteen lawyers are currently representing all the different claimants to the estate, including Bob’s children, the estates of the late Peter Tosh and drummer Carlton Barrett, the Wailers band, Bob’s mother Cedella Booker, Bunny Wailer, and various publishers and accountants.

As of the end of April, it appears as if an out-of-court scheme developed by Island Records president Chris Blackwell has met with qualified approval by most of the involved parties, and the way seems much clearer than ever for the eventual release of a treasure trove of unreleased and uncollected Marley and Wailers material going back to the dawn of his career in the early Sixties.

Chronologically, this is my breakdown of what remains to be heard, based on nearly twenty years of following every lead I could. And there is still a great deal of material, some of it stolen from Mrs. Booker’s home after Bob’s death that could yield even more surprises. Continue reading

Bob Marley Interview – After the Boston Show 1980

By Lee O’Neill    *Updated 2020
V11#3 1993

As Bob Marley and the Wailers took their positions on stage for a 1980 Boston concert [at Hynes Auditorium,] they resembled a tribe of Biblical prophets carrying electric guitars. Red, gold, and green spotlights shined on the different members of the band, from the patriarchal percussionist Seeco Patterson to guitarist Al Anderson dressed in military fatigues.

The leader of the tribe walked to the center microphone in complete darkness and slowly began the song “Natural Mystic.” A spotlight finally landed on Bob Marley, whose long dreadlocks suggested a lion’s mane, and the mood for the show was fixed. Whether they knew it or not and whether they liked it or not, the Boston audience was being drawn into a spiritual experience.

Bob Marley with the Commodores, Madison Square Garden, 1980

I had the opportunity to interview Marley several hours after that September 1980 concert. It was to be one of his last. The Wailers [then] traveled to Providence, Rhode Island, for a show at Brown University and went from there to New York. *Following two extraordinary shows at Madison Square Gardens, where the Wailers finally performed before a predominantly African-American audience while outshining the Commodores, Marley collapsed while jogging in Central Park. The extent of his illness became apparent. The Wailers made their final appearance in Pittsburgh a few days later. Continue reading