Update No. 37
Volume 6: Issue 1: Spring 2006

Wailers bassist Aston 'Familyman' Barrett's legal action to claim millions in royalties finally approaches it's climax this week, as his case finally reaches the high court in London.

Alice O'Keeffe, arts and media correspondent
Sunday March 12, 2006
The Observer

Would Bob Marley have made it without his distinctive bouncy basslines? The question will be put to a judge this week as a protracted legal wrangle between the Marley family and the bassist in his backing band, the Wailers, finally comes to the High Court. Aston 'Family Man' Barrett is suing the Marleys and the Universal Island record label, claiming that neither he nor his deceased brother Carlton, the band's drummer, have received any royalties since Marley's death in 1981. If he is successful, Barrett, now in his sixties and father to 52 children, could receive a payout of up to £60 million.

Barrett claims that he and his brother signed a contract, alongside Marley, with Island in 1974, which entitled them to royalties as 'partners' in the group. Barrett also co-wrote several songs with Marley, for which he claims he was never paid publishing fees.

Lawyers for Universal Island and the Marley family, headed by the singer's widow Rita, are expected to argue that Barrett gave up his right to royalties when he signed a legal settlement for several hundred thousand dollars in 1994.

Barrett's fellow Wailers Junior Marvin, Tyrone Downie, Earl 'the wire' Lindo and Al Anderson are expected in London for the trial, which starts tomorrow. The British journalist Vivien Goldman, author of the forthcoming Marley biography The Book of Exodus, will also testify.

The business dealings surrounding Marley's legacy have been dogged by a series of legal disputes since his death. The singer, who died of cancer, refused to make a will because his Rastafarian religion prohibited him from believing in death. The settlement was further complicated by his domestic arrangements: he had 11 children by nine women.

During one of the legal cases in 1986, Rita Marley was accused of forging her husband's signature on two documents, which transferred interests worth tens of millions of pounds into her name. She blamed her husband's attorney and accountant who were ordered to pay damages.

Sources close to the Barrett case said his lawyers would try to prove that other Marley collaborators, including Vincent Ford who co-wrote 'No Woman No Cry', were owed money by Universal Island and the Marleys.

The Barrett brothers played with Marley from 1969, contributing a distinctive, rhythm-driven sound to the breakthrough album Natty Dread and 11 subsequent albums, including Rastaman Vibration, Exodus, Kaya and Babylon by Bus.

The Barretts were among the most outstanding artists to emerge from Jamaica's thriving music scene. They were both self-taught: Aston's first bass was home-made and had only one string, and his brother practised percussion using pots and tin cans. Following Marley's death Aston has continued to tour with the Wailers. Carlton was murdered in Jamaica in 1986.

'If you listen to Bob's early stuff it sounded good, but it only became brilliant when the Barrett brothers joined,' said Wayne Jobson, a musician who knew both Marley and Barrett during their early years. 'Bob delegated a lot of the arranging, so Aston and Carlton really created the Marley sound we recognise today.

'Aston is still travelling the world promoting Bob's music and he's making no money out of it. It's shocking how he has been treated, it's just total greed because there is enough money to go around. Bob would be turning in his grave to think they weren't getting any money.'

Other experts dispute the extent of the Barretts' influence. 'Aston is an exquisite bass player, but he was a session musician rather than a partner,' said Jeremy Collingwood, author of Bob Marley: his Musical Legacy. 'Marley was always the driving force, and if the Barretts hadn't been around he simply would have found other good musicians. I've a lot of sympathy with Aston, but he was offered a royalties-based contract while Marley was alive, and he turned it down in favour of a generous, regular salary. At the time, it must have seemed like a good deal.

The Times March 17, 2006

Wailer refuses to wait in vain for £60m of Marley's royalties
By Karen McVeigh

Bass player who says he made Bob Marley famous is suing for a share of his fortune

BOB MARLEY was the undisputed “master blaster” of black music who took reggae out of Jamaica and on to the world stage. But during a lawsuit laying claim to about £60 million of his estate yesterday, the High Court heard how a bassist and a drummer in his backing band, the Wailers, were “largely responsible” for his distinctive sound.

Aston “Family Man” Barrett, a father of 52 children, is suing the Marley estate and Universal Island Record label for failing to honour agreements that he claims were made as a partnership with the singer.

He claims that he and his drummer brother, Carlton, were left “desperately short of money” after Marley died of cancer in 1981, even though they were owed royalties from a contract signed with Island Records in 1974, together with earnings from songs that he had co-written with Marley.

The hearing was attended by Marley’s widow, Rita. Wearing a white scarf around her hair, she listened attentively, smiling at one point as one witness struck up a rendition of the Marley song Dem Belly Full but We Hungry in the witness box. The court was told that the Barretts had been approached by Marley in the late Sixties after he heard their band, the Upsetters.

Stephen Bate, for Barrett, told Mr Justice Lewison that the Upsetters had toured Britain, appeared on Top of the Pops in 1967, got to No 4 in the charts with Return of Django and had “created an electric reaction among audiences”. Mr Bate said that Marley “was very interested in his sound”.

He said: “He said that he was after international success which had not been achieved by the Wailers despite being together for six years.”

Marley and Barrett then met in an alley behind his studio at 56 Hope Street, known as Island House, in Kingston, Jamaica. The studio was the same one where, in 1986, his widow would be hit in a multiple shooting. Barrett and his brother agreed to join Marley and they toured in Kingston.

Marley moved to Island Records in 1972 and their first albums — Catch a Fire and Burnin’ — included the original Wailers, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston. But these two left after disagreements in 1973.

Mr Bate said that Marley agreed to Aston Barrett’s suggestion to form a new band. He also agreed to split all the money equally, the court was told.

By 1974 the Barretts, with their unique, rhythm-driven sound, and Marley had a new contract with Island Records and the breakthrough album, Natty Dread, was released.

Mr Bate said: “The chief reason for this musical breakthrough and international acclaim was Aston Barrett and his brother.”

Eleven albums followed. He said that what he was saying did not “for one minute” detract from the extraordinary songwriting abilities of Bob Marley”. Mr Bate said that, eventually, a contract was completed that had the names of Marley and Barrett brothers on it. In a phone call from the US, Aston was told by Marley that he had signed for all three of them, Mr Bate said. “So far as the Barrett brothers were concerned, that was it. They had their contract with Island Records.”

Barrett, with his dreadlocks tied back in a pony tail and wearing a hearing aid — a result of “all that bass” — said that he did not recall how he was paid, but that Marley always took care of him and his brother: “It was not as session; we were one of the Wailers.”

Their first deal was worth $27,500, but the success of Natty Dread brought a “stratospheric increase” to $124,000, Mr Bate said.

By the time the Rastaman Vibration album was released in 1976, the band had an agreement that Marley would take 50 per cent and the rest would be shared between the Barrett brothers, Mr Bate said.

He said that the brothers’ problems began after Marley died. He did not leave a will and Rita Marley became the administrator for the estate.

Mr Bate said that, while they felt they had been paid only a proportion of what they were owed, they believed they had no option but to sign a deal.

Carlton was later shot dead, leaving three children and a widow. The hearing continues.


52 children fathered by Aston “Family Man” Barrett
11 children fathered by Bob Marley
9 women allegedly mother to Bob Marley’s children
5 original number of Wailers
36 age at which Marley died in 1981
£100m the value of Bob Marley’s worldwide record sales by 1981
50m minimum record sales worldwide
10m certified US sales of Legend, best-selling reggae album ever; at least 15 million copies were sold worldwide
12 weeks Legend spent at No 1 in British album chart (in 1984)
713 weeks Bob Marley spent in British singles and album charts, according to the latest edition of British Hit Singles and Albums

For those of you who haven't already heard this is to inform you of the passing of Brother Mortimo "Kumi" Planno, on Sunday March 5th at 22:40 hours at the University Hospital of the West Indies.

Brother Kumi as he was affectionately called, was born in 1929 on the 6th of September in Cuba. He arrived in Jamaica in the early 1930s with his mother (Jamaican), May Parks, father Miguel Planno (a Cuban Tobacconist) and 3 older siblings.

Planno grew up in the West Kingston district and came to national prominence in the early 1950s through his articulate and defiant involvement with the Rastafari Movement, then in its first two decades, as one of if earliest dreadlocked youth leaders. He was a founding member of the Rastafari Movement Association, which held the Ethiopian World Federation Chater 37, and was instrumental in many initiatives including the First Universal Grounation of Rastafari in Back-O-Wall in March 1958; the University ISER - Report of the Rastafari Movement in Kingston Jamaica 1960; the Fact Finding Mission to Africa, 1961; the visit of Emperor Haile Selassie I to Jamaica in 1966; the development and Management of Bob Marley and the Wailers; the repatriation of several families and individuals to Shashamanie Ethiopia throughout the 1960s; the arrival of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Jamaica in 1970; the Peace Concert 1978 among other initiatives.

Planno was well known for his intellectual acumen, letters to the press and his famous autobiographical text "The Earth Most Strangest Man: the Rastafarian". He has toured Africa on three separate occasions visiting a total of 15 countries there and has been invited to give lecture/tours in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

In 1998, the Faculty of Social Sciences made Bro. Kumi its inaugural Folk Philosopher through a one year fellowship where he pursued his autobiographical writings through an attachment to the department of Government. Subsequently Planno became a sinecure attached to the Institute of Caribbean Studies which facilitated his continued work up until the end. Since 1984 Planno's health had been compromised by a number of complications (glandular, cardiac, gastric and circulation issues). Increasingly from 2001 after suffering a heart attack Planno has been in and out of hospital, and in July of 2005 his right leg was amputated.

Though Mortimo Planno may be most remembered for his role on the occasion of the Emperor Haile Selassie I's visit to Jamaica when he restored order to a state where protocol has disappeared, he is perhaps most of all the archetype of a Rastafari ecumenical leader and operated in this manner for some forty odd years. His command was one with words, and when he opened his mouth all were forced to recognise his power.

For some fifty years Mortimo Planno has been one of the key Rastafari figures on the battle field. He leaves behind four children and a younger Brother Barry. Today we ask that his memory be honoured in your thoughts and prayers.

A bid by a group of community activists to name a section of a road in Brooklyn, New York in honour of Bob Marley, has been given the green light by the Brooklyn Community Board.

The motion to re-name a three-mile stretch of the thoroughfare 'The Hon. Bob Marley Avenue,' received unanimous support.

The motion and the endorsement by the members will move to the next phase of the hearing process at the New York City Council Chambers and is expected to be an agenda item at a meeting of city lawmakers next month.

The re-naming, if approved, will involve the section between 98 Street and Beckford Avenue, noted for its high percentage of Jamaicans.

The messageboard at www.bobmarleymagazine.com has fast developed into the ultimate meeting place on the internet for any self respecting fan to meet and discuss all things related to Bob and the Wailers.

Thanks to a solid, and ever growing community, the exemplary work of Marco and Ivan, and of course the inspiration of Jah, it is possible for fans to discuss the music and life of Bob, Peter, Bunny and the Wailers band members, set up trades for unreleased live and demo material, and just generally meet with like minded spirits - not to mention the fantastic interviews that appear on the sites main pages .

If you haven`t registered to the forum yet, I strongly urge you to leave this page now and do so - you won`t regret it. Just don`t forget to return here once in a while!

Site compiled by Andy Clayden.

Previous Updates:

Number 36, Winter 2005

Number 35, Autumn 2005     Number 34, Summer 2005

Number 33, Spring 2005     Number 32, October/December 2004

Number 31, August/September 2004     Number 30, May 2004

Number 29, April 2004     Number 28, January 2004

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Contact: jahlight@wailers.co.uk