In Memoriam:

Robbie Shakespeare

Bard of the Bass

[Italian version here]

Author: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Published: December, 2021

The Bassis of Dub

The world of music has lost one of the genuinely original musicians of the 20th century, Robbie Shakespeare. The bard of the bass was a legendary player and producer who moved music forward with innovative production and drivin riddim.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1953, Robbie Shakespeare grew up in a musical family in an equally musical yard. Aston Family Man Barrett of The Wailers was among those who dropped by to partake of the tunes & weed and Robbie heard Barrett's bass and knew this was the kind of thing he wanted to create. Barrett took on tutilage of him as young Robbie moved from acoustic guitar to electric bass. Robbie Shakespeare collaborated with the drummer Sly Dunbar for the first time when they played in the Channel One Studio house band, The Revolutionaries.

It was this meeting that was to define their careers and make a lasting impression on the world of music.

With Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare worked with various reggae royalty including U-Roy, Peter Tosh (6 albums), Bunny Wailer, The Mighty Diamonds, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Sugar Minott, Augustus Pablo, Yellowman, and Black Uhuru. His bass playing & production credits include Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan (3 albums), Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, Joe Cocker, Yoko Ono, Serge Gainsbourg, and Grace Jones (4 albums).

Jamaica's Culture Minister, Olivia Grange, announced Robbie Shakespeare's death, saying that Robbie Shakespeare was one of the Jamaica's great musicians. Robbie Shakespeare had suffered from kidney problems for some time, receiving a transplant and dialysis. He died following surgery in Florida, on 8 December 2021, at the age of just 68. Regular readers will have spotted Robbie Shakespeare's work regularly appearing in the Music enjoyed during this review boxouts. Since 1976, when your Old Scribe heard The Mighty Diamonds colllaboration, Your Old Scribe has included Sly & Robbie in audio evaluations. It don't mean squat if it don't got that prat!

Robbie Shakespeare was nominated for no less than 13 Grammy Awards and won two of them, including Best Reggae Album for Friends with Sly Dunbar in 1998.


This year the world has lost original toaster, The Originator U-Roy in February, and dub experimentalist, pioneering producer Lee “Scratch” Perry in August. Now Robbie Shakespeare, the Bard of Bass joins them. Wherever they are, they've been joined by a prolific bassist & producer who is credited with revolutionising the sound of dancehall & dub.

“When it comes to reggae bass playing, no one comes close to having the influence of Robbie Shakespeare,” tweeted Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica, “He will be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and Jamaica’s culture”

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