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Robbie Shakespeare, Sly and Robbie Bassist, Dies at 68

·2 min read

Robbie Shakespeare, a record producer and acclaimed bassist of the Jamaican duo Sly and Robbie, has died. He was 68.

It had been reported by The Jamaica Gleaner that the musician had recently undergone surgery related to his kidneys. He was living in a hospital in Florida before his death.

News of Shakespeare’s death was also shared by Jamaica’s Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport on its official Twitter.

“Minister [Olivia] Grange [is] saddened by the passing of the legendary bassist Robbie Shakespeare,” reads the ministry’s official statement. “Robbie’s loss will be felt by the industry at home and abroad. He will be sorely missed.”

Minister Grange shared her own personal statement on the Ministry’s official website.

“I am in shock and sorrow after just receiving the news that my friend and brother, the legendary bassist Robbie Shakespeare, has died. Robbie and Sly Dunbar (the drummer) as Sly and Robbie, have been among Jamaica’s greatest musicians,” Grange wrote. “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 artistes locally and internationally… I offer my deepest condolences to those he leaves behind. Love you, Robbie. Rest in peace.”

Born in 1953, Shakespeare was raised in East Kingston, surrounded by a family that encouraged his development as a musician. Dunbar and Shakespeare formed Sly and Robbie in the 1970s, beginning a creative collaboration focused on reggae. The duo’s breakout album “Right Time” released in 1976, launching the pair onto a global stage. Sly and Robbie worked with artists such as Joe Cocker, Grace Jones, Madonna, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Sting, Serge Gainsbourg and Britney Spears.

Sly and Robbie also became popular producers in the music industry, helping to create some of the most popular hits of the 1990s and early 2000s, including Chaka Demus & Pliers’ “Murder She Wrote” and No Doubt’s “Hey Baby” and “Underneath It All.”

Shakespeare had been nominated for 13 Grammys over the course of his career, scoring two wins. The first came in 1984 for best reggae recording for “Anthem.” The second followed in 1998 for best reggae album for “Friends.” Most recently, Sly and Robbie were nominated for a Grammy in 2019 for collaboration album “The Final Battle (Sly & Robbie vs Roots Radics).” In the 2011 documentary “Reggae Got Soul: The Story of Toots and the Maytals,” Sly and Robbie were described as two “of the most influential artists to ever come out of Jamaica.”

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