There was an outpouring of love from well wishers including family, friends, and colleagues yesterday, February 6, as many turned out to view the body of legendary reggae bassist Robbie Shakespeare. Jamaica’s PM Andrew Holness was also in attendance at the event and offered up words of consolation to Sly Dunbar, the other half of the once dynamic duo, Sly and Robbie.
Even though he offered words of comfort, the moment of meeting Sly was not lost on him as he declared, “Listen, I am in the presence of greatness.” PM Holness went on to say that he was very happy to finally meet the Grammy Award-winning drummer and producer in person.
The viewing was held at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston, and attendees were allowed to sign the condolence book. Shakespeare, who was also fondly known as Basspeare, will be laid to rest today, February 7 at the Webster Memorial United Church in St Andrew. The viewing was also held because the service will not be open to the general public.
Minister of Culture Olivia Grange, who was also in attendance at the viewing, is expected to do the remembrance while Sly Dunbar will lead a musical tribute, with an arrangement by Dean Fraser. Other performances carded for the funeral include Chevelle Franklyn and Pam Hall.
Robbie, who is widely regarded as one of the most influential reggae bassists of all time because of his creative use of electronics and production effects units, died in December 2021 due to issues with his kidneys.
Several stalwarts in the dancehall genre credit him for his innovation, and two of the most respected veterans, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, also shared their feelings through music. Robbie and Sly were very instrumental in helping to give dancehall some iconic rhythms through their Taxi label, which was relaunched in the 1970s. So much so that they became known as the Riddim Twins.
Many of the songs that they helped create streamed in the background as people made their way to view Robbie in his golden casket. Even Beenie Man was sure to remember this and expertly weave the information into his delivery of “Selassie Calling”.
Bounty Killer delivered a soulful performance to the legendary bassist as he soulfully crooned an excerpt from “By the Rivers of Babylon.” He later shared a clip of his performance on Instagram.
“Walk well uncle Robbie the legend the pioneer the stalwart Jamaica’s greatest bassist we love you forever you will be in our hearts,” he posted.
While many chose to remember Robbie for his contribution, his closest friends and relatives still felt the pain of his loss. The Jamaica Gleaner spoke with One Pop engineer Rorey Baker who expressed his pain but also noted that he was thankful that he was able to say farewell to a father, a friend, a colleague, a business associate, a motivational speaker, and a guidance counselor.
“The lessons I have learnt by being around them is something that I will pass on to my children and grandchildren. I don’t want to get too emotional. Let’s just seh him do him work and him gone leave we, and we proud ah what him left we fi recognise and fi live offa and to cherish,” he said.
The publication also noted that Robbie’s older brother wept openly as he looked on at his sibling in the casket and signed the condolence book.
They also spoke with Devonte of the group Tanto Metro who noted the very important role that Robbie played in so many careers. He added that it was just an honor to know him because he was such a great person.