Robbie Shakespeare, one-half of the pioneering reggae duo, Sly and Robbie, has died. Shakespeare was a noted bassist who worked alongside fellow reggae legends such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh while lending his talents to other musicians such as The Rolling Stones and more.
Born Robert Warren Dale Shakespeare in East Kingston, Jamaica, on September 27, 1953, Shakespeare got his start early on as his family’s home was a hub for many Jamaican artists and musicians according to a 2012 interview with United Reggae. In the piece, Shakespeare revealed that he learned the art of bass playing from Aston “Family Man” Barrett, sticking close to his mentor before he went on to become a bassist for The Wailers. It was around the mid-1970s when Shakespeare would officially join forces with drummer Sly Dunbar.
The pair were fans of the American soul style exhibited by Motown, Stax Records, and they also enjoyed country music. They also heralded local musicians and were quick studies who emulated the sounds of their heroes but created their own signature style.
As a production duo, Sly and Robbie’s musical roots gave them a strong foundation of rhythm and groove but they also embraced change. In the 1980s, they began employing drum machines, crafting some of the most famous “riddims” in reggae music of all time via the tracks “Bam Bam” and “Murder She Wrote.”
Shakespeare played on albums from Grace Jones, Joe Cocker, Sting, Carly Simon, Mick Jagger, and Bob Dylan among others. Alongside Dunbar, the appearances the duo made are too numerous to list but no less significant. In 1999, the duo won the Best Reggae Album Grammy Award for the album Friends.
According to Jamaican news publication The Star, Shakespeare was living in Florida at the time of his passing after receiving kidney surgery.
Across Twitter, Shakespeare’s memory and contributions to music were upheld with high regard. And the island of Jamaica also gave a statement regarding the loss. We’ve got reactions from Twitter below.
Robbie Shakespeare was 68.
Rest Powerfully in Peace, Robbie!