Sly and Robbie  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Sly and Robbie one of reggae's most prolific and long lasting production teams. The rhythm section of drummer Sly Dunbar and bass guitarist Robert Shakespeare started working together in the mid 1970s, after having established themselves separately on the Jamaican music scene. They are humorously also sometimes referred to as Sly Drumbar and Robbie Bassspeare.

Sly and Robbie may well be the most prolific recording artists ever. One estimate is that they have played on or produced some 200,000 songs, considering that some of their riddims such as "Revolution" have been used on over 100 songs.

They were the house band for Chris Blackwell’s Compass Point Studios in Nassau.


Before joining forces, Sly was drumming for the Skin Flesh and Bones band and Robbie was the bass player for the Aggrovators. They also used to play in clubs (Sly at Tit for Tat and Robbie at Evil People), and used to check each other out. They found out that they had the same ideas about music in general (both are huge fans of Motown, Philly Sound and Country & Western, in addition to Jamaican legendary labels Studio One and Treasure Isle), and Reggae production in particular. They first worked together with The Revolutionaries for the newly created Channel One studio and label, operated by the Hoo Kim brothers.

They changed the face of reggae several times: in 1976, they introduced a harder beat called "Rockers", which quickly replaced the then prevalent "One drop" style, then introduced the "rub a dub" sound in the early 1980s. Sly and Robbie were important in developing the trend towards computer assisted music and programming in the mid 1980s.

Also in the early 1990s they introduced a novel sound with the hits "Bam Bam" and "Murder She Wrote" by Chaka Demus & Pliers. Chaka Demus' rough DJ vocals were matched with Pliers' sweet, melodic, soul-influenced singing; this unusual vocal pairing was championed by Sly and Robbie. This formula has since been used with great success by the likes of Shaggy (who teamed up with singers Rayvon or Rik Rok), Shabba Ranks, Maxi Priest and others. This predates and may have influenced the recent trend in some rap music where a song's "hook" or chorus is sung by a guest, while the verses are rapped.

In the "Bam Bam" style, Sly introduced Indian tabla sounds in his drum beats, while Robbie altogether stopped playing bass on this particular project.

Sly & Robbie continued to innovate during the 1990s and early 2000s, fusing Dancehall and Latin music sounds (La Trenggae) or Dancehall and hip hop/R&B (their 2004 Big Up riddim). In 1999, their "Strip to the Bone" album paired them with electro producer Howie B, and together they explored new dub territories. Their 1999 single "Superthruster" from this album became a mainstream hit by being played on MTV frequently. Reason for this was undoubtly not only the pulsing beat but the high quality animated video in sinister Anime style. It showed Sly and Robbie in battlesuits chasing a Harlequin through a technological complex. As the video progresses, the harlequin turns out to be a marionette directed by the real villain. The early scene involving the Harlequin marionette bears at least a passing resemblance to Sven Väth's 1994 animated cult-video "Harlequin". "Superthruster" was released on vinyl and as a DVD single, its February 9, 1999 release date making it one of or even the first DVD single ever to go on sale.

In 2003 they compiled and mixed a DJ mix album, Late Night Tales: Sly & Robbie, as part of the Late Night Tales series for Azuli Records.

Far from restricting themselves to the Jamaican scene, (in which they have played for virtually every prominent Jamaican musical artist from Beenie Man to Sean Paul to Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs Dennis Brown and others), they have been one of pop music's most sought after rhythm sections, playing for and producing superstars such as Ben Harper, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, the Rolling Stones, Grace Jones, Joan Armatrading, Gilberto Gil, Joe Cocker, Serge Gainsbourg, Simply Red, Michael Franti, Sting, Khaled, Mey Vidal, Tricky, Doug E. Fresh, Carlos Santana, Sinéad O'Connor, and many more.

They have produced No Doubt's hits "Hey Baby" and "Underneath it All". They also produced some tracks off Suggs first album The Lone Ranger including the hit version of Cecilia featuring Louchie Lou and Michie One which sold over 500,000 copies in the UK alone.

After 30 years together, they still tour and record relentlessly. In early 2005, they toured with Tony Rebel and Half Pint. During the Summer of 2005, they toured Europe and the UK with Bunny Rugs, lead singer for Third World. During the Fall of 2005 they were on the road with Sinéad O'Connor in August 2006, they appeared with Don Carlos at the Reggae on the River Festival, and in August 2007 they performed on a tour of the Western United States and Canada along with TAXI label artist Cherine Anderson, including headlining Reggae Rising in Humboldt County and The Hollywood Bowl.

They have produced several new Jamaican artists for their TAXI label, including Kibaki, Mynimoo and Zennlocc, as well as confirmed superstars such as Elephant Man and Buju Banton, for whom they re-used their 1982 instrumental mega-hit "Unmetered Taxi". In 2006, they recorded with their original group, the Revolutionaries, to produce Horace Andy's new album "Livin' it up" and produced several hits for Cherine Anderson. In the 2007, they cooperated with the Italian rapper Jovanotti in the album Safari, they also produced tracks for Beatles founder Paul McCartney and Britney Spear.

They are now putting the finishing touch to "MOVIN' ON", the highly anticipated new album by Bitty Mclean.

Individual details


Artist Title Year Label
Amp Fiddler Inspiration Information 2008 Strut Records
Barry Reynolds I Scare Myself 1982 Island
Beenie Man Maestro 1996 Shocking Vibes
Black Uhuru Positive 1987 Greensleeves
Black Uhuru Brutal 1986 Greensleeves
Black Uhuru Anthem 1984 Island
Black Uhuru The Dub Factor 1983 Island
Black Uhuru Chill Out 1982 Island
Black Uhuru Tear It Up 1982 Island
Black Uhuru Red 1981 Island
Black Uhuru Sinsemilla 1980 Island
Black Uhuru Showcase 1979 Virgin
Bob Dylan Infidels 1983 CBS
Brent Dowe My Everything unkn Circulation Music/Records
Britney Spears Piece of Me (Sly & Robbie Remix) (featuring Cherine Anderson) 2006 Jive Records
Bunny Wailer Food/Serious Things 1986 Solomonic
Bunny Wailer Dubdisco 1980 Solomonic
Bunny Wailer Marketplace 1984 Solomonic
Bunny Wailer sings The Wailers 1980 Solomonic Island
Bunny Wailer Roots Radics Rockers Reggae 1983 Shanachie
Chaka Demus & Pliers Tease Me 1993 Mango
Chaka Demus & Pliers For every kinda people 1996 Island
Charlie Chaplin Que Dem 1986 Powerhouse
Cornell Campbell Follow Instructions 1982 Mobiler
Culture Two sevens Clash 1978 Joe Gibbs
Culture Harder than the Rest 1978 Virgin
Cutty Ranks Can I Touch U Baby 1999 Circulation Music/Records
Dennis Brown Brown Sugar 1988 RAS
Don Carlos Spread Out 1983 Channel One (Kingston, JA)
Eljuri El Aire 2008 Manovill Records
Foundation Heart feel it 1989 Island
Frankie Paul Strictly ReggaeMusic 1983 Londisc
Fugees Fu Gee La Remix 1996 Columbia
Grace Jones Living my Life 1982 Island
Grace Jones Nightclubbing 1981 Island
Grace Jones Warm Leatherette 1980 Island
Gregory Isaacs Showcase 1980 Taxi
Gregory Isaacs Cool Ruler 1978 Front Line
Gregory Isaacs Soon Forward 1979 Front Line
Gwen Guthrie Gwen Guthrie 1982 Island
Half Pint In fine Style 1982 Sunset
Half Pint Victory 1988 RAS
Half Pint Greetings 1987 Jet Star
Half Pint showcase w. Michael Palmer 1986 Greensleeves
Half Pint/Junior Delgado I want your love 1987 Powerhouse
Herbie Hancock Rockit 12 inch maxi 1983 CBS
Home T4 Sly & Robbie present 1984 Taxi
I Wayne Lava Ground 2005 VP
I Wayne Book of Life 2007 VP
Ian Dury Lord Upminster 1981 Polydor
Ini Kamoze Pirate 1986 Island
Ini Kamoze Statement 1985 Island
Ini Kamoze Ini Kamoze 1984 Island
The Itals Brutal out Deh 1981 Nighthawk
Jacob Miller Jacob Killer Miller 1980 Island
Jimmy Cliff Follow My Mind 1975 Warner
Jimmy Riley Rhythm Driven 1981 Island
Joe Cocker Sheffield Steel 1982 Island
Kazumi Watanabe Mobo 2 1983 Gramavision Records
Kazumi Watanabe Mobo 1 1982 Gramavision
Ky-Mani Marley Like Father Like Son 1996 Warner Bros. Records/Rhino
Linval Thompson Starlight 1988 Mango
Linval Thompson Linvall 1977 Vista Sounds
Linval Thompson Rockers From Channel One 1979 Trojan
Mad Cobra Hard to wet, Easy to dry 1992 Columbia
Madonna Supernatural (Remix) 1992 Warner Bros. Records
Madonna Give It 2 Me (Remix) 2008 Warner Bros. Records
Marianne Faithfull Lola R. For Ever (From the tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited) 2006 Barclay
Material The Third Power 1991 Axiom
Material Seven Souls 1989 Island
Matisyahu Jerusalem (Out Of The Darkness Comes Light) 2006 JDub
Maxi Priest Maxi 1987 Virgin
Michael Franti & Spearhead All Rebel Rockers 2008 ANTI-
Michael Franti & Spearhead Yell Fire! 2006 Boo Boo Wax & ANTI-
Michael Palmer showcase w. Half Pint 1986 Greensleeves
Michael Rose X-uhuru 1998 Tabou 1 / Taxi
Mick Jagger She's the Boss 1985 CBS
Mighty Diamonds Unruly Pickney 1982 MR
Mighty Diamonds Tell Me What Wrong 1980 JIL
Mighty Diamonds Vital Selection 1981 Virgin
Mighty Diamonds Money Love 1982 Powerhouse
Mighty Diamonds Backstage 1982 Music Works
Mighty Diamonds Dubwise 1982 Music Works
Monty Alexander meets Sly and Robbie 2000 Telarc
Mr. Anonymous Mr. Anonymous 2005 KAB America
No Doubt Hey Baby 2001 Interscope
No Doubt Underneath It All 2002 Interscope
Peter Tosh Wanted Dread and Alive 1980 EMI
Peter Tosh Live at Montreux 1979
Peter Tosh Mystic Man 1979 EMI
Peter Tosh Bush Doctor 1978 Rolling Stones
Peter Tosh Equal Rights 1977 Columbia
Prince Far I Cry Tuff Dub encounter II 1979 Virgin's Front Line
Prince Jammy Kamikaze Dub 1996 Trojan
Prince Jammy A Dub Extravaganza 1992 Charley
Revolutionaires Goldmine Dub 1979 Greensleeves
Revolutionaries Outlaw Dub 1979 Trojan
Revolutionaries Dutch Man Dub 1978 Burning Vibrations
Rico Man from Wareika 1977 Island
Ronnie Davis Crucial 1978 Big Mac Soul Power
Serge Gainsbourg Negusa Nagast 1981 Polygram
Serge Gainsbourg Mauvaises nouvelles des etoiles 1981 Phillips
Serge Gainsbourg au Palace 1980 Phillips
Serge Gainsbourg Aux Armes 1979 Phillips
Shabba Ranks A Mi Shabba 1995 Epic
Simply Red Life 1995 East West Records
Sly and Robbie Crucial Reggae 1981 Island Mango
Sly and Robbie Present Taxi 1981 Island
Sly and Robbie Rebel Soldier [Soljie] 1982 Taxi
Sly and Robbie Kings of Reggae 1983 Keystone
Sly and Robbie Sounds of Taxi 1984 Taxi
Sly and Robbie Sly & Robbie "Language Barrier" 1985 Island
Sly and Robbie A Dub Experience 1985 Island
Sly and Robbie The Sting 1986 Moving Target
Sly and Robbie Electro Reggae 1986 Island
Sly and Robbie Taxi Fare 1987 Heartbeat
Sly and Robbie presents Sound of Taxi 3 1987 Taxi
Sly and Robbie Rhythm Killers 1987 Island
Sly and Robbie Taxi Connection Live in London 1987 Island
Sly and Robbie Fire / Ticket To Ride 1987 Island
Sly and Robbie The Summit 1988 Greensleeves
Sly and Robbie present Gregory Isaacs 1988 RAS
Sly and Robbie Two Rhythms Clash 1989 RAS
Sly and Robbie Silent Assassin with KRS-ONE and BDP 1989 Island
Sly and Robbie Rhythm Killers 1990 Polygram Records
Sly and Robbie Hits 1978-1990 1990 Sonic Sounds
Sly and Robbie DJ Riot 1990 Island
Sly and Robbie Dubs for Tubs 1990 Rohit
Sly and Robbie Sixties Seventies and Eighties 1991 Mango
Sly and Robbie Dub Rockers Delight 1991 Magnum Music Group
Sly and Robbie Sound of Sound 1991 Pow Wow
Sly and Robbie Remember Precious Times 1992 RAS Taxi
Sly and Robbie Ragga Pon Top 1993 Pow Wow
Sly and Robbie Many Moods of 1994 Sonic Sounds
Sly and Robbie present Mykall Rose 1995 Taxi
Sly and Robbie Funkcronomicon 1995 Axiom
Sly and Robbie Hail up the Taxi 1996 Island
Sly and Robbie Mysteries of Creation 1996 Axiom
Sly and Robbie meet King Tubby 1996 House of Reggae
Sly and Robbie The Punishers 1996 Island
Sly and Robbie Mambo Taxi 1997 Island
Sly and Robbie Hail up Taxi 2 1998 Tabou1 / Taxi
Sly and Robbie present Taxi Christmas 1998 RAS
Sly and Robbie Friends 1998 Island
Sly and Robbie Drum and Bass Strip to the Bone by Howie B 1999 Palm Pictures
Sly and Robbie Massive 1999 nyc music
Sly and Robbie Sly & Robbie 1999 Rhino
Sly and Robbie Version Born (produced by Bill Laswell) 2004 Palm Pictures
Sly and the Revolutionaries Black Ash Dub 1978 Trojan
Sly Dunbar Simply Slyman 1978 Virgin Frontline
Sly Dunbar Sly Wicked and Slick 1979 Virgin
Sly Dunbar Sly-Go-Ville 1982 Island
Sugar Minott A True 1984 Arrival
Sugar Minott Buy Off The Bar 1983 Powerhouse
Sugar Minott Sugar & Spice 1990 RAS
Suggs The Lone Ranger 1995 WEA
Tiken Jah Fakoly Coup de gueule 2004 Barclay
Toots Hibbert Toots in Memphis 1988 Island Mango
Vanessa da Mata Sim 2007 Sony BMG
Various Music Works Showcase 1982 Music Works
Various Raiders of the Lost Dub 1981 Mango
Various Down in Jamaica 1990 Invitation
Various La Trenga 1997 VP
Wailing Souls Live On 1994 Island
Yami Bolo Freedom and Liberation 1998 Tabou 1 / Taxi
Yellowman Yellow like Cheese 1987 RAS

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sly and Robbie" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jan-Willem Geerinck. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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