Jamaica Observer: KINGSTON, By Brian Bonitto – THERE were no tears for legendary bassist Robert “Robbie” Shakespeare at his public viewing at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston on Sunday.
Hundreds of people — including Prime Minister Andrew Holness, government ministers, family, music fraternity members, and close friends — paid their respects while reminiscing about the great Jamaican musician. Many of them also signed a condolence book.
A private thanksgiving service for Shakespeare, half of “Riddim Twins” Sly and Robbie, is slated for Webster Memorial Church in Kingston today. Interment follows in a plot at Strawberry Hill in St Andrew at a later date.
Holness said, as a child of 1980s, Sly and Robbie’s Taxi rhythm formed the soundtrack of his teenaged years.
“What they [Sly and Robbie] mean to my generation of the 1980s is significant; they’re legends. Half of the duo [drummer Sly Dunbar] is from my constituency [of St Andrew West Central], so it was important for me to pay my respects and associate with the greatness of this musical duo. The Taxi rhythm, like the Sleng Teng rhythm, those were my music when I was in high school,” Holness told the Jamaica Observer.
“Today is Bob Marley’s birthday, so I went to view the opening of an exhibition for Rita Marley at the Bob Marley Museum and then I decided to come and pay my respects here to another reggae legend, Robbie Shakespeare,” he added.
Dunbar said despite the loss, he’s putting on a happy face.
“I’m not going to see Robbie again. It’s a sad situation. We have to just put the best forward and show a happy face because if you’re down, everybody’s gonna be down. It’s a sad day; we’re gonna miss him. I think he has gone too soon,” said the venerable drummer. “I’ll continue the work of the brand of Sly and Robbie. He’s gonna be missed because nobody plays the bass like he does — very creative, very cutting edge.”
The drummer said he last spoke to his colleague on his birthday on September last year.
“I sang happy birthday for him when he was in hospital in Florida and he laughed,” Dunbar added.
Singer Beres Hammond said Jamaica and the world has lost a musical icon.
“Mi neva waan deh yah, I woulda prefer if him deh round. As far as mi concern, the relationship between me and him it don’t even feel like it over. It’s hard for mi to talk about him [Robbie] some time, like he’s in the past. We lose one of the big giants, no doubt,” he told the Observer.
Shakespeare’s sibling, Howard, said he last saw his brother years ago, but they spoke regularly.
“He was a real brother who I loved. I last saw him four years ago at our mother’s funeral. From that, today’s the first I’m seeing him again. We talked regularly but the music had him tied up,” said Shakespeare.
The bass guitarist’s son, Robbie Jr, remembers his dad as a devoted father.
“Going inside there and trying to sign the book, I’m just shaking. It just don’t seem real… Being a father is his legacy to me. Just being himself, that’s what I know him for, just being him. It’s not about his music for me, it’s just him,” said Shakespeare Jr.
The elder Shakespeare died at his Florida home on December 8, 2021 from kidney complications. He was 68.
Shakespeare played on some of reggae’s finest moments, including Concrete Jungle by The Wailers, Bunny Wailer’s Blackheart Man album, and Burning Spear’s epic Marcus Garvey album.
He and Dunbar became world-famous during the 1980s, working with Black Uhuru as well as elite acts like Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Grace Jones, Manu Dibango, and Mick Hucknall of Simply Red.
They won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1999 for the aptly titled Friends.
Sunday’s public viewing — held under the watchful eyes of Dr Kurdell Espinosa-Campbell, acting director of emergency medical services in the Ministry of Health and Wellness — saw live performances from Chaka Demus & Pliers and percussionist Bongo Herman.
Other members of the entertainment fraternity present included producers Lenky Marsden, George Phang, Collin “Bulbie” York, and Gussie Clarke; singers Leroy Brown, Hopeton Lindo and Lukie D; artiste managers Copeland Forbes and Bridgett Anderson; music insider Clyde McKenzie; deejay Benzly Hype; singjay Chico; impresario Tommy Cowan and wife Carlene Davis; Carlton Smith and Junior Moore of The Tamlins; and June Isaacs, widow of Gregory Isaacs.