Renowned reggae bassist Robbie Shakespeare – part of the Sly and Robbie rhythm section alongside Sly Dunbar – died at the age of 68 of unconfirmed causes, the Jamaican government announced.
He started his career in Jamaica before meeting Dunbar at a club concert in 1973, and the pair began working together right away. They became key members of the Revolutionaries, the house band for the country’s Channel One studio, then founded their own record label, Taxi.
After achieving success with Black Uhuru, Sly and Robbie’s contribution to Grace Jones’ 1981 album Nightclubbing – best known for the hit single “Pull Up to the Bumper” – made them international names. They went on to appear on Bob Dylan’s Infidels, Empire Burlesque and Down in the Groove, Mick Jagger’s She’s the Boss and dozens of other releases.
“Bob was one of my all-time writers and singers from a long time,” Shakespeare told United Reggae of Dylan in 2012. “The way [he] put words together was very unique and masterful. When we worked with Bob, he worked the way we work. He’d just go in the studio and start playing, and we’d just jump in. There wasn’t any pressure from him – you’d more pressure yourself to make sure you get the right thing.”
Listen to Bob Dylan’s ‘Jokerman’ Featuring Robbie Shakespeare
He went on to name-check his favorite rock artists, noting that “the Rolling Stones … are just bare raw rock ‘n’ roll! You also have a group out of Canada named Rush – tough! Geddy Lee is bad! And you have a couple more. Metallica I love. Metallica are bad. … Because we were born in a reggae town, and played in a reggae town, you have to get the thing out and sounding in a way where no man will say, ‘Cho! It’s reggae, man,’ you know? So we add a little uniqueness to it, because we want to get it the right way.”
In Memoriam: 2021 Deaths
Remembering the musicians, actors, producers and others who have died in 2021.