Robbie Shakespeare, ‘Wickedest Bass’ in Reggae, Dead at 68.
Alongside his Riddim Twins counterpart Sly Dunbar, the bassist played with everyone from Black Uhuru to Bob Dylan across more than four decades.
Robbie Shakespeare, the renowned reggae bassist who helped move the genre into new sonic territory and whose playing was heard on classics by Black Uhuru
and Peter Tosh as well as albums by rock icons such as Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger, has died at age 68.
His death, from unconfirmed causes, was announced on Twitter by Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment & Sport.
As half of the long-standing and prolific rhythm section Sly and Robbie, with his longtime friend and collaborator Sly Dunbar on drums, Shakespeare was rooted in the reggae rhythms of his native Jamaica.
Robbie Shakespeare Cause of Death
But he and Dunbar were also sonic mad scientists, moving their sound — and the music — into even more syncopated, electronic-driven territory on classic singles like Grace Jones.
“Big, big loss,” Black Uhuru’s Michael Rose tells Rolling Stone. “Nobody sounds like Robbie. He had the wickedest bass. You’ll never find anything like that again.”
The cause of his death has not yet been identified, but Greener reported that Shakespeare was suffering from his kidney health.
“Words cannot describe the sadness we feel at the loss of our dear friend Robbie,” Zak Starkey posted on Instagram.
“A giant of a man who brought deep outta space bass to the world and so much great times to us in Jamaica. We will miss you so. Truly thankful to u for yr massive part in our music — we could not have done it without you.”
Born Sept. 27, 1953, Shakespeare was raised in East Kingston, Jamaica. After learning to playing guitar, he became an early protégé of bass legend Aston “Family Man” Barrett. “One evening I was there going about my business when I saw him there rehearsing with a band named the Hippy Boys,” Shakepeare recalled to United Reggae in 2012.
“When I saw him playing his thing I said, ‘Wait.’ Because I was always attracted to bass, you know. … The sound from the bass that time there hit me and I said, ‘Shiiiiiit.’ I said to him, ‘I want to learn how to play this thing. You haffi teach me.’ Then the next morning he woke me up and started giving me some bass line lessons.”