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Celebration of life held for ‘Familyman’ in Florida; service in Jamaica March 5

Published:Monday | February 26, 2024 | 12:08 AM
 In this May 27, 2013, file photo, Wailers bassist Aston Barrett performs during the free Memorial Day outdoor festival in Bethlehem, Pa. Barrett passed away on February 3 in Florida. A thanksgiving service will be held in Jamaica on March 5.
In this May 27, 2013, file photo, Wailers bassist Aston Barrett performs during the free Memorial Day outdoor festival in Bethlehem, Pa. Barrett passed away on February 3 in Florida. A thanksgiving service will be held in Jamaica on March 5.

The thanksgiving service for renowned bass player, Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett, will be held at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston on March 5, beginning at 10 a.m.

In a release, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange said that the public will have an opportunity to pay their final respects to Barrett who passed away on February 3 at the age of 77 in Miami, Florida. Mourners have been requested to wear white.

This comes after Saturday’s private, live-streamed event which was hosted by the family in Florida.

An invitation posted on YouTube stated:”We invite you to join us virtually in a celebration of life for Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett on February 24, 2024. As we gather to honour his memory and legacy, let us come together online to share in the spirit of community and remembrance that Aston cherished so deeply. Please note, this is a private event, but we are pleased to offer a live stream for those who wish to join us in remembrance.”

At the ceremony, all the attendees were dressed in white and the coffin was draped in purple as well as with the Rastafarian flag. Among the players of instruments participating in the more than three-hour-long ceremony were Julian Marley and Aston Barrett Jr.

Clive Chin of Randy’s Recording and VP Records, who knew Barrett for close to 50 years and used to travel all over the island with him when he was a part of the Hippy Boys and the Upsetters, shared precious memories.

“One of my very first hits which was recorded was an instrumental by the name of Java ... hearing the song, you can hear the love. Unfortunately, Fams didn’t play bass, he played acoustic piano. I was fortunate enough to get that song recorded at Randy’s. There’s quite a lot of memories I can share with you,” Chin, who is the godfather for one of Barrett’s daughters, told the gathering.

He shared how Fams asked him to join the Wailers on tour with Marley as an engineer, but his own father would have none of it. It was also about that time that his father ordered him to cut his locks, a deed which Barett, who had been nururing him, lamented. He ended by assuring the family that he “is always there for them”.

Best known as the bandleader of Bob Marley’s backing band, as well as co-producer of the albums, Minister Grange described Barrett as “one of the best reggae musicians Jamaica produced”. Barrett played on some of the Wailers’ biggest hits, including I Shot the Sheriff, Three Little Birds and Jammin’.

In 2020, Barrett was one of two Jamaicans named on the 50 Greatest Bassists of All Time list, compiled by Rolling Stone magazine. Robbie Shakespeare appeared at number 17 and Barrett at number 28. Shakespeare, in paying tribute Barrett in an 2009 Fog City Journal interview, hailed his mentor as “the man”.

“Just the way the man plays the bass, you know. There are gunfighters and there are gunfighters, seen? I can’t tell you nothing more. He is a master for me. I have had help and influences from other people, but I have to give it mostly to Family Man.”

Barrett, who was born on November 22, 1946, was the fourth of five children. According to his Wikipedia bio, Barrett sang along to soul music as a child, then learned the bass, building his first bass guitar from scratch. Barrett, whose nickname came about before he had any children of his own, subsequently fathered 41 children.

In 2012, Barrett was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Bass Player Magazine, and in 2021 the Government of Jamaica inducted Barrett into the Order of Distinction (Commander class).

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com