Aston "Family Man" Barrett  

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Aston "Family Man" Barrett (1946 – 2024) was a Jamaican musician best known as the bandleader of Bob Marley's backing band. An early single on which his bass can be heard is the instrumental "Liquidator" (1969); his most famous appearance is the dub version of "Baby I Love You So" (1974).


Early career

Aston Barrett's father and grandfather were musicians. At a young age, he made his own first bass (with only one string) and played with his brother Carlton, four years younger, who had built a drum kit out of old paint pots. From then until Carlton's death in 1987, the two brothers were to form an inseparable team as a rhythm section. Aston got his first real bass from a member of the group The Gaylads. The brothers formed their first band, the Hippy Boys with singer Max Romeo in the late sixties. The first recording they played on was "Watch This Sound" (1968) by Uniques.

Some of the Hippy Boys musicians, including the Barrett brothers, later formed Lee Perry's studio band The Upsetters. This band reached number 5 in the British charts with "Return of Django" in 1969. Another top ten success featuring the Barrett Brothers was Harry J. & the All-Stars "Liquidator" from the same year. The Upsetters also accompanied the Wailers on a series of singles in 1970 and 1971, which were later released on the African Herbsman record, among others. These sessions can be regarded as one of the highlights of early reggae. Bob Marley took over the Barrett brothers (together with other musicians from the Upsetters). In 1973 they released Catch a Fire, which can be considered the first roots reggae album.

Collaboration with Bob Marley

Barrett became the musical head of Bob Marley's backing band The Wailers, in which he played with his brother from 1970 until Marley's death in 1981. In addition to his role as bassist, he also served at times as music producer, arranger, background singer, guitarist, keyboardist and co-songwriter.

Barrett usually used a Fender Jazz Bass. Family Man prefers the finger touch to the plectrum touch. His bass lines are often rhythmic intricate and yet always catchy, a good example being the bass figure of I Shot The Sheriff. It is striking that Barrett hardly ever varies or improvises.

Due to their high recognition value, his bass parts form the ideal counterpoint to Marley's improvisations. Barrett has influenced countless other bassists, including perhaps the most important reggae bassist alongside him, Robbie Shakespeare, who was at times his student. Barrett's playing can be regarded as exemplary for reggae bass in general.

Barrett's influence as arranger and producer on the music of the years to come should not be underestimated. On each of the future albums, Aston's name appears directly below Marley's, presenting Family Man as the most important band member after Marley (this also applies to Catch a Fire and Burnin', where the original Wailers Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer are still part of the group). Barrett's duties included recruiting and training additional musicians (for example winds), leading band rehearsals and overseeing stage and studio work. He is co-author of the songs Rebel Music (3 O'clock Roadblock) and Want More. Who the Cap Fit (a.k.a. Man to Man) he co-wrote with his brother. He also produced and played on solo records by artists in Marley's circle, including Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths. Marley himself entrusted Aston Barrett with the production of the Melody Makers, a group made up of some of Marley's children. The last Wailers single before Marley's death was I Know. From his sickbed in a hospital in Bavaria, Marley telephoned Family Man Barrett to mix the single and prepare it for release.

After Marley's death

After Marley's death, the Barrett brothers collaborated with Justin Hinds on his album Travel with Love in 1984. Barrett also played on albums by Burning Spear and John Denver, among others. During his career, Family Man also appeared as a musical teacher, taking younger artists under his wing and training them musically. Among his students were Brinsley Ford, the later leader of Aswad, Bob Marley's son Julian and bassist Robbie Shakespeare. Aston also built one of the first, if not the first, drum machine, which he named The Rhythm King - the title Family Man himself has held for over 30 years.


Along with his brother Carlton on drums, Barrett went on to play with Bob Marley & The Wailers, The Hippy Boys and Lee Perry's The Upsetters.


Barrett was the mentor and teacher of Robbie Shakespeare of the duo Sly & Robbie


Barrett played a Fender Jazz Bass and used Acoustic 370 and Ampeg SVT bass amplifiers.

Island Records dispute

In 2006 Barrett filed a lawsuit against Island Records, the Wailers' label, seeking £60 million in unpaid royalties allegedly due him and his now deceased brother. The lawsuit was dismissed. The arguments by Island-Universal and the Marley family was that Barrett surrendered his rights to any further royalties in a 1994 settlement in exchange for several hundred thousand dollars. The judge agreed. As a result he faced about £2 million in legal costs for the trial, forcing him to sell two homes in Jamaica.

Personal life and death


Barrett's "Family Man" nickname came about before he had any children of his own. Aston foresaw his role as a band leader and started to call himself "Family Man". He subsequently fathered 41 children.


Robbie Shakespeare (Sly & Robbie, who has been estimated to have played bass on 200,000 tracks:

"Well…what can I say? He is the man (laughter). Just the way the man plays the bass, you know. There are gun fighters and there are gun fighters, seen? I can't tell you nothing more. He is a master for me. I have had help and influences from other people, but I have to give it mostly to Family Man."

Ali Campbell (UB40 frontman):

"There was bluebeat, rocksteady and ska. That all happened before reggae, which kind of happened in about '69, you know, when reggae as we know it was invented by the Barrett brothers, I'd say."

Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones):

"The first time the Wailers went to England, soon after this, I caught them by chance up in Tottenham Court Road. I thought they were pretty feeble compared to what I'd been hearing in Steer Town. But they certainly got their act together real quick. Family Man joined in on the bass, and Bob obviously had all of the stuff required."

Ziggy Marley (Bob Marley's oldest son):

"I think the drum and bass, they are a very important part in Bob music. It was, you know, Family Man and Carlton, two brothers. They have their own style."

John Lennon (The Beatles, discussing his plans for a comeback album in early 1980 while listening to the album Burnin'):

"In fact, if they really wanted the right sound, they should go to Jamaica! Go to the same studio that Bob Marley used! Get down with the Rasta men and smoke ganja in big spliffs or hash in chillums. Then they could get that deep-down, super funky, bass-box sound that comes from Trenchtown. You couldn't get that sound in New York. No way!"



  • Familyman in Dub [197X]


  • Aston Barrett – Familyman in Dub [197X]
  • Burning SpearHail H.I.M. (1980), Radic
  • Horace Andy & Winston Jarrett & Wailers – The Kingston Rock [1974]
  • Keith HudsonPick A Dub [1974]
  • Various Artists – Cobra Style [197X]
  • Various Artists – Juvenile Delinquent [1981]
  • Iya Karna with the Wailers – Inkarnation [1986]

Albums engineered by Aston Barrett

Mixing engineer

Recording engineer

  • Various artists – Juvenile Delinquent [1981]


As a musician he appears on


  • African BrothersWant Some Freedom [1970–78]
  • African Brothers & King Tubby – The African Brothers Meets King Tubby in Dub [197X]
  • AggrovatorsDub Justice [1975–76]
  • Aggrovators – Kaya Dub [197X]
  • Aggrovators – Reggae Stones Dub [1976]
  • Aggrovators & King Tubby's – Dub Jackpot [1974–76]
  • Aggrovators & Revolutionaries – Rockers Almighty Dub [1979]
  • Al CampbellGee Baby [1977]
  • Al Campbell – Loving Moods of Al Campbell [1978]
  • Alpha Blondy & Wailers – Jerusalem [1986]
  • Aston Barrett – Familyman in Dub [197X]
  • Augustus PabloDubbing with the Don [197X]
  • Augustus Pablo – King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown [1972–75]
  • Augustus Pablo – Original Rockers [1972–75]
  • Augustus Pablo – Original Rockers Vol. 2 [1989]
  • Augustus Pablo – The Definitive Augustus Pablo Box Set [197X-8X]
  • Augustus Pablo Meets Lee Perry and The Wailers Band – Rare Dubs [1970–71]
  • Augustus Pablo & Various Artists – Augustus Pablo Presents DJs From 70s to 80s [197X-8X]
  • Big JoeAfrican Princess [1978]
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – 'Soul Rebels (1970)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – 'Soul Revolution (1971)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – The Best of The Wailers (1971)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Catch a Fire (1973)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Burnin' (1973)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Natty Dread (1974)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Live! (1975)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Rastaman Vibration (1976)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Exodus (1977)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Kaya (1978)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Babylon By Bus (1978)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Survival (1979)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Uprising (1980)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Live Forever (1980)
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – Confrontation (1983)
  • Bunny WailerBlackheart Man (1976)
  • Burning SpearMarcus Garvey (1975)
  • Burning Spear – Garvey's Ghost (1976)
  • Burning Spear – Man in the Hills (1976)
  • Burning Spear – Dry & Heavy (1977)
  • Burning Spear – Marcus' Children – originally released as Social Living (1978)
  • Burning Spear – Living Dub Vol. 1 (1979)
  • Burning Spear – Living Dub Vol. 2 (1979)
  • Burning Spear – Hail H.I.M. (1980)
  • Burning Spear – Farover (1982)
  • Burning Spear – The Fittest of the Fittest (1983)
  • Carlton Barrett & Family Man – The Sound of Macka Dub [197X]
  • Delano Tucker – Gather Israelites [197X]
  • Delroy WilsonTrue Believer in Love [197X]
  • Dillinger24 Karat Gold Ragnampiza [197X]
  • Dillinger – CB 200 [1976]
  • Don CarlosJust A Passing Glance [1984]
  • Donald + Lulu With Wailers – Beautiful Garden [1982]
  • Errol Thompson & King Tubby – Holy War Dub [197X]
  • Glen Brown & King Tubby – Termination Dub [1973–79]
  • Haile Selassie I feat. Bob Marley & The WailersThe War Album [2001]
  • HeptonesUnreleased Night Food and Rare Black Ark Sessions [1976–77]
  • Horace Andy & Winston Jarrett & Wailers – The Kingston Rock [1974]
  • I-RoyTruths and Rights [1975]
  • Impact All Stars – Randy's Dub [1975]
  • Israel Vibration - "Unconquered People" [1980]
  • Iya Karna With Wailers – Inkarnation [1986]
  • Jackie MittooShow Case Volume 3 [1977]
  • Jacob MillerWho Say Jah No Dread [1974–75]
  • Jimmy LondonHold On [1977]
  • Jimmy London – It Ain't Easy Living in the Ghetto [1980]
  • Jimmy London – The Jimmy London Collection [197X]
  • Johnny ClarkeOriginally Mr. Clarke [1980]
  • Johnny Clarke & Delroy Wilson & Doreen Shaffer – Lovers Rock Vol. 2 [197X]
  • Josh HeinrichsJosh Heinrichs & Friends [2010]
  • Justin HindsTravel With Love [1982–84]
  • Keith HudsonPick A Dub [1974]
  • Keith Hudson – Torch of Freedom [1975]
  • Keith Poppin – Envious [1975]
  • Keith Poppin – Pop Inn [1977]
  • King TubbyAfrican Love Dub [1974–79]
  • King Tubby – King Tubby's Lost Treasures [1976]
  • King Tubby & Errol Thompson – The Black Foundation in Dub [197X]
  • King Tubby & Friends – Rod of Correction Showcase [197X]
  • KnowledgeStraight Outta Trenchtown [1975–80]
  • Larry Ethnic Meets Wailers With Various Artiste – Larry Ethnic Meets The Wailers with Various Artiste [1975]
  • Larry Marshall & King Tubby – I Admire You in Dub [1975]
  • Lee PerrySoundz from the Hotline [1976–79]
  • Linval ThompsonI Love Marijuana [1978]
  • Linval Thompson – Negrea Love Dub [1978]
  • Linval Thompson & Friends – Whip Them King Tubby [197X]
  • Little RoyTafari Earth Uprising [197X]
  • Lloyd Willis – Gits Plays Bob Marley's Greatest Hits [1977]
  • Max RomeoRevelation Time [1975]
  • Negril – Negril [1975]
  • Nuroy & Uroy – The Originator [1976]
  • Pablo MosesIn The Future [1983]
  • ParagonsNow [1982]
  • Pat KellyLonely Man [1978]
  • Peter ToshEqual Rights [1977]
  • Peter Tosh – Legalize It [1976]
  • Rita MarleyWho Feels It Knows It [1980]
  • Robert Marcey and Familyman with The Wailers – "Wailin' For Justice" [2010]
  • RoyalsDubbing with The Royals [197X]
  • Royals – Pick Up The Pieces [1977]
  • Rupie EdwardsIre Feelings [1975]
  • ScientistScientific Dub [1978–80]
  • Scratch and Company – Chapter 1, The Upsetters [1970–76]
  • Slim SmithThe Very Best Of [196X-7X]
  • Sly & Robbie Meet King Tubby – Reggae Rasta Dub [1974–77]
  • Sons of JahBankrupt Morality [1978]
  • Sons of Jah – Reggae Hit Showcase [1980]
  • Sons of Jah – Universal Message [1982]
  • Sydney Rogers – Miracle Worker [1974]
  • TennorsMoods [196X-7X]
  • Twinkle BrothersAll The Hits Vol. 2 [1971–91]
  • UpsettersBlackboard Jungle Dub [1973]
  • Various Artists – 17 North Parade [1972–75]
  • Various Artists – Aquarius Rock [197X]
  • Various Artists – Clocktower Presents Conquerors in Dub [197X]
  • Various Artists – Down Santic Way [1973–75]
  • Various Artists – Every Mouth Must Be Fed [1973–76]
  • Various Artists – Java Java Dub [1972]
  • Various Artists – Juvenile Delinquent [1981]
  • Various Artists – Kingston All Stars Meet Downtown at King Tubbys [1972–75]
  • Various Artists – Reggae Jeggae [1968–69]
  • Various Artists – Rite Sound Reggae Story [1980]
  • Various Artists – Santic and Friends [1980]
  • Various Artists – Sound System Rockers [1969–75]
  • Various Artists – Treasure Isle in Dub [1970–78]
  • Various Artists – Wonderman Years [1971–76]
  • Vivian Jackson – Ram A Dam [1976]
  • Yabby YouThe Yabby You Collection [197X]
  • Yabby You & King Tubby – King Tubby's Prophesy of Dub [1976]
  • Yabby You & Various Artists – Jesus Dread [1972–77]

Rhythm guitar

  • Aggrovators & King Tubby's – Dub Jackpot [1974–76]
  • Aggrovators & Revolutionaries – Rockers Almighty Dub [1979]
  • Agrovators Meet Revolutionaries – Agrovators Meet Revolutionaries Part II [197X]
  • Bunny Wailer – Black Heart Man [1976]
  • Cornell CampbellDance in a Greenwich Farm [1975]
  • Delroy Wilson – For I and I [1975]
  • Johnny Clarke – Moving Out [1975]
  • Johnny Clarke – Put It On [1975]
  • Johnny Clarke – Rockers Time Now [1976]
  • Johnny Clarke – Sings in Fine Style [1975]
  • King Tubby – Dub from the Roots [1974]
  • Owen Gray – Forward on the Scene [1975]
  • Scientist – Scientific Dub [1978–80]
  • Sons of Jah – Universal Message [1982]
  • Tommy McCook & Aggrovators – Cookin [1975]
  • Various Artists – Juvenile Delinquent [1981]


  • Bunny Wailer – Black Heart Man [1976]
  • Sons Of Jah – Universal Message [1982]
  • Various Artists – Juvenile Delinquent [1981]


  • Aston Barrett – Familyman in Dub [197X]
  • Burning Spear – Farover [1982]
  • Sylford WalkerLamb's Bread [1978]
  • Vivian Jackson – Ram A Dam [1976]
  • Yabby You – Conquering Lion [1977]
  • Yabby You & King Tubby – King Tubby's Prophesy of Dub [1976]
  • Yabby You & Various Artists – Jesus Dread [1972–77]

Lead guitar

  • Sons of Jah – Universal Message [1982]
  • Various Artists – Juvenile Delinquent [1981]


  • Aston Barrett – Familyman in Dub [197X]
  • Bob Marley and the WailersUprising [1980]
  • King Tubby – The Roots of Dub [1975]
  • Rita Marley – Who Feels It Knows It [1980]
  • Wailers- Burnin' [1973]


  • Aston Barrett – Familyman in Dub [197X]


  • Aston Barrett – Familyman in Dub [197X]
  • Bob Marley and the WailersUprising [1980]
  • Burning Spear – Hail H.I.M. [1980]
  • Various Artists – Juvenile Delinquent [1981]


  • Aston Barrett – Familyman in Dub [197X]
  • Bob Marley and the WailersUprising [1980]
  • Larry Ethnic Meets Wailers with Various Artiste – Larry Ethnic Meets The Wailers with Various Artiste [1975]
  • Various Artists – Juvenile Delinquent [1981]


  • Various Artists – Juvenile Delinquent [1981]


  • Larry Ethnic Meets Wailers with Various Artiste – Larry Ethnic Meets The Wailers with Various Artiste [1975]

Bass drum

  • Burning Spear – Farover [1982]


  • Burning Spear – Farover [1982]

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Aston "Family Man" Barrett" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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