Robbie Shakespeare of reggae duo Sly and Robbie dies at 68

The Jamaican musician was known for being a prolific bassist who worked with fellow greats like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh

Musician Robbie Shakespeare was a prolific bassist who worked with reggae greats including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Gregory Isaacs. AFP

Robert “Robbie” Shakespeare, the Jamaican bass guitarist best known as half of the reggae and dub duo Sly and Robbie, died on Wednesday, Jamaica's culture minister said. He was 68.

Born Robert Warren Dale Shakespeare in East Kingston in 1953, Shakespeare was a prolific bassist who worked with reggae greats including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Gregory Isaacs.

Jamaican Culture Minister Olivia Grange called him one of the country's great musicians.

"I am in shock and sorrow after just receiving the news that my friend and brother, the legendary bassist Robbie Shakespeare has died,” she said, but did not describe the cause of death. "He had been ailing for some time."

"This fantastic team took bass playing and drumming to the highest level."

His work spanned the roots reggae, rockers and dancehall genres with distinctive bass grooves that often used electronic effects.

Shakespeare also branched into pop music, producing artists like Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper and Grace Jones.

He learned to play bass at the hands of Aston Barrett of the Wailers and the Upsetters band.

Named several times to "best bassist" lists, including Rolling Stone's 50 Greatest Bassists of All Time, Shakespeare formed a duo with Sly Dunbar called the Riddim Twins, their first collaboration a band called the Revolutionaries.

In 1974, the pair formed an independent production company and record label called Taxi Records.

Their first production with Gregory Isaacs, called Soon Forward, was an instant hit.

Sly and Robbie produced music for movie soundtracks, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Poetic Justice. The duo was nominated for 11 Grammy awards, with one win for best reggae album in 1998 for Friends.

Updated: December 9th 2021, 6:20 AM