Aston 'Family Man' Barrett Keeps Wailing After Bob Marley's Death


Published: Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 8:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 at 8:44 p.m.

It's been 31 years since reggae musician Bob Marley's death, and interest in the man and his music has rarely waned. In April, there was the well-received film "Marley," a warts-and-all documentary that explains how he escaped the squalor of Jamaica's slums to become a global icon. And his greatest-hits album, "Legend," has seemingly taken up permanent residence on Billboard's Top 200, where it has been for 226 weeks (take that, Adele).

It began when three friends — Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston — formed the Wailers in 1963. Fueled by ganja, the Rastafarian religion and celebratory mood brought on by Jamaica's declaration of independence a year earlier, the Wailers became stars performing songs that were rebellious but somehow also captured a vibe of peace and love. When Tosh and Livingston left the band in the early 1970s, Marley created a new version of the Wailers, featuring bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett and his brother Carlton Barrett on drums. After Marley's death, several iterations of the Wailers, led by Aston, continued to tour, paying tribute to Marley and the music he helped popularize.

Today, Barrett, 65, is the lone member of the current Wailers lineup who actually played with Marley. As the Wailers again prepare to bring their message of peace, love and unity to U.S. stages, Barrett talked to Newsday from Jamaica, where residents are celebrating the island's 50th anniversary of independence from Britain. Barrett shared why it's important to keep Marley's (and the Wailers') legacy alive.

ON WHAT DRIVES THE BAND:

"We're work addicts. We are ordinary people who do extraordinary work. We do all of that, not just for us but for the world."

ON THE NEW GENERATION OF FANS:

"They thank us every time for keeping that music and the message alive. ‘Don't stop. Keep coming, man. You're our hope.' So we give them hope. They even name their kids after us."

ON THE POWER OF MUSIC:

"We are the archangels who were chosen for a mission, and we're still at it. And you can see what's happening in the four corners of the Earth — we're still having wars and wars and wars, so our work never stops, it's never finished."

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