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Aston Barrett, 77, Bass-Playing Force With Bob Marley and Wailers, Dies

Aston Barrett, who as the bass player and musical director for the Wailers — both with Bob Marley and for decades after the singer’s death in 1981 — crafted reggae’s hypnotic rhythms and complex melodies that helped elevate the genre to international acclaim, died on Saturday in Miami. He was 77.

The cause of death, at a hospital, was heart failure after a series of strokes, according to his son Aston Barrett Jr., a drummer who took over the Wailers from his father in 2016.

Mr. Barrett was already well known around Jamaica as a session musician when, in 1969, Mr. Marley asked him and his brother, Carlton, a drummer, to join the Wailers as the band’s rhythm section.

More than anyone else, the collaboration between the two men turned both the Wailers and reggae itself into a global phenomenon during the 1970s.

Mr. Barrett with Mr. Marley in 1977. He kept the Wailers going after Mr. Marley died in 1981, playing an evolving sound rooted in his musical innovations.Credit…Kate Simon

Mr. Marley wrote and sang the songs and performed as the band’s soulfully charismatic frontman. Mr. Barrett arranged and often produced the music. He also kept the band organized during its constant touring, earning him the nickname Family Man — or, to his close friends, Fams.

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