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Monday, December 5, 2022


July 9, 2002 — Legendary reggae artist Bunny Wailer will be taking some time off, on doctor's orders. Exhaustion has sidelined the veteran performer for 30 days, forcing him to reschedule Saturday night's planned concert on St. Thomas.
Reached by telephone Tuesday afternoon at his home in Jamaica, Wailer said he's been following his doctor's orders. "I've been doing everything he said to do," he said, laughing. "It's just rest. It doesn't mean bed rest, just rest."
He said his exhausting schedule contributed to his need for a month of rest and relaxation. "I do so many things. There are so many responsibilities that come at you in this world that we live in," he said. "I've been doing it a little too hard."
Wailer said he will spend some of his rest time in his garden and on his 142-acre farm. "I've got 60 acres of coconuts," he said, "It's good for the people. I can't eat all of the coconuts myself."
Wailer's concert at Lionel Roberts Stadium has been rescheduled for Aug. 17, and by then, he said, he'll be "fit as a fiddle." Tickets sold for Saturday's concert will be good for the new date.
Born Neville O'Reilly Livingston, Wailer came of age in Jamaica in the midst of a turbulent political scene. In the mid-'60s, he teamed up with childhood friend Bob Marley and a young Peter Tosh to form The Wailers, arguably reggae's most influential band. They released their final album as a group in 1973.
Three years later, Wailer came out with his first solo project, "Blackheart Man." He won a Grammy award in 1990 for "Time Will Tell," a collection of covers of Bob Marley songs, and two more in 1994 and 1996 for "Crucial! Roots Classics" and "Hall Of Fame — A Tribute To Bob Marley's 50th Anniversary," respectively.
Wailer's political bent is still evident in his strong emotional response to the ongoing strife in his homeland. His anger toward Jamaica's political corruption echoes the early work of The Wailers.
"The thing about Jamaica and its problems," he said, "if the head of the table is corrupt. then corruption comes down to the foot of the table. It goes further than that, sometimes. I think we need to get a revolution, a change, of those people who are in charge."
He said he thinks his country is headed toward total chaos, adding, "Jamaica doesn't deserve that." But, he said, "It's not going to get better until the people decide that they want a change."
Wailer, the only surviving member of The Wailers, has a reputation as a bit of a recluse. He tours infrequently, and tickets to his concerts are in great demand.
He has performed twice before on St. Thomas, the last time in 1996. Even so, he said, he thinks of St. Thomas as something of a second home. "I live on St. Thomas in Jamaica," he said. "The vegetation is the same, the mango trees, coconuts and the people; we are all really the same."
Prior to his doctor-ordered vacation, Wailer said, he had been in the studio working on three projects. One is an anthology of his music to be released on compact disc and DVD. Another is an album titled "Crossover" that will feature him performing a wide variety of music, including rock 'n' roll and hip hop. "A lot of people when they hear it may say 'that's not Bunny Wailer,'" he said with a laugh, "but it is Bunny Wailer."
His rescheduled St. Thomas concert date is the birthdate of Marcus Garvey, something he feels is significant. "This is an event that should be attended," he said. "I think the whole region should come alive with this event."
Garvey, the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, is widely considered one of the originators of the Pan-African movement. A native of Jamaica, he was active in that nation's political scene until his death in 1940.
Wailer expressed pleasure that his St. Thomas performance will coincide with Garvey's birthday. "I am looking forward to all of the African-conscious people who know what Marcus Garvey represents," he said.
He said his function as a reggae artist is more than just to entertain. "All I can do is be a teacher," he said. "I hope my teachings will somehow be heeded."

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