Robert “Robbie” Shakespeare, the Jamaican bassist best known as one half of reggae and dub duo Sly and Robbie, died on Wednesday, the Jamaican Minister of Culture announced. He was 68 years old.
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 has called him one of the country’s great musicians.
“I am in shock and grief after learning that my friend and brother, legendary bassist Robbie Shakespeare has passed away,” she said in a statement which did not describe the cause of death but said that he “had been ill for some time.” “” This fantastic team has taken bass and drums playing to the highest level. “
His work spanned the roots reggae, rocker and dancehall genres with distinctive bass grooves that often used electronic effects. Shakespeare also dabbled in pop music, producing artists like Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper and Grace Jones.
He learned to play bass from Aston Barrett of the Wailers and Upsetters. Named multiple times to lists of “Best Bassists”, including Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest All-Time Bassists, Shakespeare formed a duet with Sly Dunbar called the Riddim Twins, their first collaboration with a group called the Revolutionaries.
In 1974, the couple formed an independent production company and label called Taxi Records. Their first production with Gregory Isaacs, titled “Soon Forward”, was an instant hit.
Sly and Robbie have produced music for movie soundtracks including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Poetic Justice”. The duo were nominated for 11 Grammy Awards, with a win for Best Reggae Album in 1998 for “Friends”.
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