In Memoriam: Aston “Family Man” Barrett
Aston “Family Man” Barrett, best known for his work with Bob Marley and the Wailers, has died after a prolonged illness. He was 77 years old. The news was shared by his son, Aston Barrett, Jr. on Facebook.
“With the heaviest of hearts, we share the news of the passing of our beloved Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett after a long medical battle,” he wrote. “This morning, the world 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. Our family is asking for privacy during this challenging time, as words cannot express our profound loss.”
Barrett grew up in Kingston, Jamaica and was a pioneer of reggae and dub. As his interest in music grew, he used the resources he had to make it work. He was a bike mechanic and electrical welder before starting his music career. He crafted his own first bass with plywood that he nailed together with a curtain road for the neck and a curtain rod line for a string.
Although his time with Marley created and iconic catalog of music, his career was not solely defined by it.
“I’d been on the road before Bob, you know. I’ve been on the road from 1969. Before Bob, with Bob, and after Bob,” he told us in 2014. “My first band was called the Hippy Boys. From the Hippy Boys it was the Upsetters with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Then it was the so-called Youths Professionals, and that is what became Wailers International.”
Barrett joined the Wailers in the ’70s and became the leader for Marley’s backing band. He would co-produce the albums and was in charge of arranging the songs. His bass lines from that era are near perfection: “Three Little Birds”, “Jamming”, “Is This Love”, “I Shot the Sheriff”, and more. He was give a Bass Player Magazine Lifetime Achievement award in 2012 and in 2021 was honored with the Order of Distinction in the National Honours and Awards on Jamaica’s 59th Anniversary of Independence.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Aston Barrett.