(CMR) Robbie Shakespeare, one half of Reggae duo Sly and Robbie, passed away on Thursday, 8 December. He was 68 years old. Shakespeare died in Florida, where he had recently done surgery.
Shakespeare, an iconic bassist, formed Sly and Robbie with drummer Sly Dunbar in the mid-70s after both worked separately in other bands. After bonding over an affinity for reggae production, they worked for other artists, with their breakout credit being Mighty Diamonds’ 1976 album ‘Right Time.’
Throughout a career spanning almost 50 years, Shakespeare collaborated with artists such as Madonna, Bob Dylan, No Doubt, Peter Tosh, the Rolling Stones, and Grace Jones.
Shakespeare was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1953 and learned how to play bass under the guidance of Aston Barrett of The Wailers. He teamed up with drummer Sly Dunbar in the mid-1970s, and the two became one of the most influential rhythm and production duos in the history of reggae.
Shakespeare helped create the unique sounds heard in Murder She Wrote and Bam Bam – two songs considered the most legendary and important in reggae and dancehall. They also produced music for movie soundtracks, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Poetic Justice.
Sly and Robbie were nominated for 13 Grammy awards and won two – in 1984 for best reggae recording for Anthem, and then in 1998 for best reggae album for Friends.
Throughout their career, Sly and Robbie also released several albums of their own, the last of which was 2019’s ‘The Final Battle: Sly & Robbie vs. Roots Radics,’ which was nominated for Best Reggae Album at the 2019 Grammys.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said, “The legendary bassist Robbie Shakespeare played a significant role in recording and producing albums for various Reggae artists including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, U Roy, Culture, Burning Spear among other big names.
“When it comes to Reggae bass playing, no one comes close to influencing Robbie Shakespeare. He will be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and Jamaica’s culture. May his soul Rest In Peace.”