Bob Marley and Aston Francis “Family Man” Barrett, July 1975 (Ian Dickson/Redferns)
Aston Francis “Family Man” Barrett, the reggae bassist who rose to fame with Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Upsetters and played on Bob Marley’s biggest hits, died at a Florida hospital on February 3 after a long medical battle, BBC News reports. Sharing the news on social media, his son Aston Barrett Jr. wrote that the world had “lost not just an iconic musician and the backbone of The Wailers but a remarkable human being whose legacy is as immense as his talent.” Barrett was 77 years old.
Barrett was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, where he has said he built his first bass guitar using plywood, a curtain rod, and an ashtray. He and his drummer brother, Carlton, formed the rhythm section of a group called the Hippy Boys, whom Perry enlisted for a UK tour in his Upsetters band.
In 1974, the pair split from Perry to join Bob Marley and the Wailers, playing on the classics “Could You Be Loved,” “Get Up Stand Up,” “Jamming,” “No Woman, No Cry,” and “I Shot the Sheriff,” among others. Even when blocked from collaborating outside of Marley’s band, Barrett remained a core part of Jamaica’s generation-defining reggae scene, going on to mentor Sly & Robbie and continuing with the Wailers after Marley’s death.
Speaking in Lloyd Bradley’s book Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King, Barrett described his and his brother’s connection with the other “country bwoys” in the reggae scene, particularly Marley, Perry, and Burning Spear’s Winston Rodney. Although he and Carlton were from Kingston, he said, they spent most of their time “by the riverside and up in the mountains—so Scratch [Perry] knew we could connect with him. We have that spiritual vibe, that mental riff, we connect. Music has no limit and Scratch could see that. With Bob, and before that, he was always going to take it to the highest limit it could go and I could feel the inspiration flowing between them—feel it more than just in the head, I could feel it in my stomach. At the time we know that what we had was a special touch and what we were putting out was what nobody else has ever achieved.”
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork