Robbie Shakespeare, the hugely influential producer and bass player who helped shape over 50 years of music with his creative partner Sly Dunbar, has sadly passed away at the age of 68.
The world-renowned musician died in Florida where had been in hospital for kidney surgery.
Jamaica’s Culture Minister Olivia Grange, who announced his death, said in a statement: “[Sly and Robbie] took bass playing and drumming to the highest level as they made music for themselves as a group, and for many other artistes locally and internationally.”
Together, Sly & Robbie wrote the rule book on Jamaican and dancehall and rhythm sections, working with everyone from Peter Tosh, U-Roy, Dennis Brown and Bunny Wailer to the Rolling Stones, Madonna and Gwen Stefani.
Their influence stretched far beyond reggae and dancehall, filtering its way through pop, hip-hop, dance music and rock across five decades.
After a few years orbiting each other in the early 1970s, Sly & Robbie first played together as the rhythm section of a band for a Peter Tosh live tour. Soon after, they solidified their partnership as part of Black Uhuru, mixing their love of funk and soul with roots reggae on several albums through to the mid 1980s.
They went on to pioneer hugely radical ways of playing and producing music, ultimately ushering in what would become dancehall. Chaka Demus & Pliers’ “Murder She Wrote” and Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” in particular both carry the era-shifting inventiveness of Sly & Robbie.
Rest in power, Robbie.