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Music / Bunny Wailer

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Neville O'Riley Livingston, better known as Bunny Wailer (or Bunny Livingston) was a Jamaican musician who was the third member of the singing trio The Wailers featuring Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. He was the longest living member too, as whilst both Bob and Peter died in the 80s, Bunny lived until 2021, when he passed away at the age of 73. He was Bob's stepbrother in his childhood (his father having gotten together with Bob's mother), and his sister had a child with Peter Tosh, so there was a family connection too.

Whilst he did not achieve as much success as the former two (primarily due to a distrust of the music industry) - a number of his recordings remain well regarded, in particular his first album "Blackheart Man". Unlike Bob and Peter, who became highly involved with major labels, Bunny preferred to release his music on his own label, Solomonic, which greatly affected its availability.

Bunny received numerous awards for his contributions to music, including the Order Of Jamaica.

To have you all in my tropeland would be like heaven to me:

  • Biography: He self-released an audio-only autobiography as part of his own self-produced set "Wailers Legacy" (which also includes several discs of music). Roger Steffens and he collaborated on a proper book titled "Old Fire Sticks" as well, but it was never finished. Two further books are of note: Roger Steffens' book "So Much Things To Say" (in which extracts from "Old Fire Sticks" are included) and "I&I: The Natural Mystics" by Colin Grant (which, unlike other Wailers books, focuses quite heavily on Bunny and featured new interviews with him).
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: In the mind of many fans, his conspiracy theories about the management of Bob's estate were this. He even launched a website to promote them.
  • Cover Version:
    • Bunny's signature song, "Dreamland" is a reworded cover of El Tempo's "My Dream Island", an obscure doo-wop song from 1962.
    • The albums "Tribute" and "Hall Of Fame" entirely covered Bob Marley songs. His earlier "Sings The Wailers" featured reworkings of his, Bob and Peter's pre-1972 material.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Many who knew him stated that after Bunny's time in prison in the late 60s, his personality had considerably changed, leading to his distrust of authority that characterised much of his later career decisions.
  • Greatest Hits Album: His main one is "Retrospective", although its scope is limited because he couldn't use anything released on Island. "Crucial! Roots Classics" features a number of his more obscure singles, and the two "Solomonic Singles" volumes (though only released in Japan) capture a number of singles not featured on either of the previous two compilations.
  • Intercourse with You: "Tread Along", in which he sings to someone who is "Like a stick of macaroni in bed". This somewhat doubles as Early-Installment Weirdness, as he generally eschewed romantic lyrics in favour of spiritual and political ones later.
  • Meaningful Rename: He was Bunny Livingston until he left The Wailers - and changed 'Livingston' to 'Wailer' to ensure it would be known he always considered himself a Wailer.
  • New Sound Album: Whilst he flirted with a disco sound on "Hook Line And Sinker" and an 80s synth-reggae sound on "Marketplace", the follow up "Rule Dancehall" established a change to a dancehall-influenced sound which he continued on his subsequent albums.
  • The Not-Remix: "Peace Talks" is "Roots Radics Rockers Reggae" but with reverb on the vocals and some extra lyrics.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: He was the leader of the short-lived Original Wailers project after Bob Marley's death along with Peter Tosh and Studio 1 era singers Junior Braithwaite and Constantine Vision Walker. The album was roughly half remixed JAD tracks (most of which hadn't been released at that point) and new songs written by Bunny. Though they released one single, "Music Lesson" in 1985, the album itself had Troubled Production, and almost fell apart completely due to the murder of Peter Tosh in 1987. Work on the project resumed with Peter's son Andrew Tosh filling in for him, and eventually came out in 1993. It's seen as more a curio than a great album in its own right, being that the production is decidedly 80s and was essentially a Bunny vanity project.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Fighting Against Conviction" is about his time in prison, and "False Beneficiaries" is about the widespread pirating of early Wailers songs.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The earliest recorded version of "Pass It On" (a 1971 dubplate version first released on the JAD CD "Original Cuts") was split into two songs - the chorus was reused for "Pass It On" (his 1972 single version and the later Burnin' rerecording), and the verses were reused in his later track "Innocent Blood".
  • Re-release the Song: Bunny rerecorded most of the songs he was involved with prior to his first album, and he also covered numerous Bob Marley songs - most notably on the 2CD set "Hall Of Fame". A particularly interesting example is "Fancy Curls", Bob Marley's first written song, that Bunny remembered hearing him enter into a talent competition as a kid.
  • Retraux: Dubstore reissued a number of old singles he was involved with, in particular, "Tread Along" and "Feel Alright" on red/gold/green Wail N' Soul M' labels. The original late 60s releases of these songs were on blank labelled records, as the band didn't have the budget for the multicoloured labels that they had previously been using. As a result these releases were designed to look as if they had.
  • Shout-Out: The title of the movie "Cool Runnings" was named after Bunny's song, but it wasn't actually included in it.
    • He's dropped some Wailers song titles in his songs, for example "Slave Driver" in "Moses' Children", "Hypocrite" and "No Sympathy" in "Quit Trying".
  • Stage Name: From a childhood nickname - and it's actually a Jamaican dialectal word for 'bonnie' (nothing to do with a bunny rabbit). The earliest Studio 1 recordings on which he appears credit him as Bonnie or Bonny - sometime later, it changed. Bunny even inferred he didn't like the comparison - in "Riding High", in which he states "Just like a rabbit, you're always on the run".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Although The Wailers were effectively a collective, his vocals tend to have this effect on their albums because they appear so sporadically in comparison to Bob and Peter. For example, he performed on "Riding High" and "Brainwashing" on Soul Revolution Part II, and on "Hallelujah Time" and "Pass It On" on "Burnin'".
  • Take That!: "Quit Trying" is a particularly satisfying one aimed at an unnamed individual.
  • The Band Minus the Face: He was the defacto frontman for The Wailers for several months in 1966 when Bob Marley went on hiatus from the group to work in America. Peter Tosh handled a few vocals in this period too, but not as often as Bunny, who wrote several of his signature songs then ("Who Feels It Knows It", "Dancing Shoes", "Sunday Morning" and "I Stand Predominate" being notable examples). Constantine "Vision" Walker was drafted in as a harmony vocalist, but he never had any leads.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: Whilst the original "My Dream Island" by El Tempos is a song about retiring to a paradise with someone you love (who, the tone of the song implies, you live far away from), Bunny's reworking, "Dreamland" is widely accepted to be about repatriation to Africa. This is an interesting example, however, as barring the title phrase, the lyrics are the same as the original, and Bunny didn't specify it either. It has simply been assumed by so many writers (particularly before the fact it was a cover was widely known) that fans have taken it as fact. Appropriately enough, a few years after the song was recorded, Bunny bought a plot of land in rural Jamaica to live on with his wife Jean Watt, and lived off the land similarly to what the song describes.
  • Theme Tune: "Rockers" was this to the 1978 movie of the same name, and increased his popularity as a result. An instrumental section of the song features as a Leitmotif in the movie too.
  • Tyop on the Cover: The compilation CD "Destiny: Rare Ska Sides From Studio 1" mistitles "I Stand Predominate" as "I Stand Predominant", leading to the error often being repeated (even though Bunny himself remade the song under the correct title on his "Sings The Wailers" album).
    • "Tread Along" is credited as "Tread O" on JAD releases, due to that being what was handwritten on the blank record it was sourced from. However, per Bunny, "Tread Along" is the correct title.
    • "Follow Fashion Monkey" is titled "Fallow Fashion Monkey" on Jamaican releases of Protest.