‘He Will Be Remembered for His Sterling Contribution’: Legendary Jamaican Bass Player Robbie Shakespeare Dead at 68

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Robbie Shakespeare, the iconic bassist who worked with everyone in the music industry, from Grace Jones to Bob Dylan, and one half of the legendary duo Sly and Robbie with Sly Dunbar, has died. The influential music figure was 68 years old.

The Grammy-award-winning musician passed away at a hospital in Florida, where he had been staying following a recent kidney-related surgery, the Jamaica Gleaner reported. The Kingston, Jamaica, native had been permanently living overseas at the time of his death.

UNITED KINGDOM – JULY 13: Photo of Robbie SHAKESPEARE and Sly DUNBAR and SLY & ROBBIE; Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare photographed at Island Records (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)
UNITED KINGDOM – JULY 13: Photo of Robbie SHAKESPEARE and Sly DUNBAR and SLY & ROBBIE; Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare photographed at Island Records (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)

“When it comes to reggae bass playing, no one comes close to having the influence of Robbie Shakespeare,” Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in sending his condolences to the family in a Twitter post after the instrumentalist’s death was made public. “He will be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music industry and Jamaica’s culture.”

Shakespeare’s death comes just a little over one year after the “Chase the Devil” musician was ranked at No. 17 on Rolling Stone’s greatest bassists of all time list.

The artist felt gratitude about the honor, telling the Gleaner at the time: “I appreciate the fact that others looking in can see what we are doing for the music. This makes me feel like a baby.”

The record producer explained that no matter the amount of success he and partner Dunbar achieved throughout their career, they never felt entitled to the accolades they received. “No matter how much people hail Sly and Robbie as the legends, and despite two Grammy wins and 11 nominations, we never ever feel like anything we get in life, we must get it,” he continued.

“There have been a lot of sleepless nights and ‘eatless’ nights, too. Nuff time we go to bed hungry, so we remember these things and take stock. There are so many other great bassists out there who they could have chosen, and yet they chose me, and I am grateful,” he added.

Along with Dunbar, Shakespeare released six albums between 1985 and 2014. He’s worked on three albums with singer-songwriter Dylan, including “Infidels,” “Empire Burlesque,” and “Down in the Groove.” Other collaborators included Herbie Hancock, Bob Marley, Sting, and more.

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