Robbie Shakespeare 1953 – 2021

Legendary reggae bassist Robbie Shakespeare, of the influential duo Sly & Robbie, has died at the age of 68 at a Florida hospital following kidney surgery. Jamaica’s Culture Minister Olivia Grange confirmed his death, which was reported by several Jamaican news outlets.

“I am in shock and sorrow after just receiving the news that my friend and brother, the legendary bassist Robbie Shakespeare has died,” Grange wrote. “Robbie and Sly Dunbar, the drummer, as Sly and Robbie, have been among Jamaica’s greatest musicians. This fantastic team took bass playing and drumming to the highest level as they made music for themselves as a group and for many other artists locally and internationally. Robbie’s loss will be severely felt by the industry at home and abroad. My condolences to those he leaves behind. Love you, Robbie. Rest in peace.”

Born Robert Warren Dale Shakespeare on September 27, 1954, in East Kingston, Jamaica, he was exposed to music at an early age. Shakespeare’s first bass lessons came from Aston “Family Man” Barrett, who would become a member of Bob Marley & The Wailers and Lee Perry’s The Upsetters.

“My condolences to the family, friends and fans of Jamaican Reggae musician and record producer, Robbie Shakespeare of the Sly and Robbie fame,” Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness stated. “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 having the influence of Robbie Shakespeare. He will be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and Jamaica’s culture. May his soul Rest In Peace.”

Early in his professional career, Shakespeare was a session musician, performing with The Aggrovators and The Revolutionaries. In the early-1970s, he met drummer Sly Dunbar and formed the production duo known as Sly & Robbie. In addition to releasing several of their own albums, the pair worked with Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Joe Cocker, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Grace Jones, Serge Gainsbourg, No Doubt, Sinéad O’Connor and many others.

Reggae artists Sly & Robbie collaborated with include Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Mighty Diamonds, Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Black Uhuru, Beenie Man, Matisyahu and U Roy, among several more.