Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett revisits classic Bob Marley & the Wailers album
If you think the essence of Bob Marley and the Wailers includes waving a Red Stripe in the air and singing “every little thing is gonna be alright,” along with whatever cover band is playing at your neighborhood bar, you may be surprised by what you hear when you go see the Wailers on their current tour.
Led by founding member Aston “Family Man” Barrett, the Wailers are playing the 1979 album, “Survival,” in its entirety. This is the first time the band has dedicated a tour to one album since Marley’s death in 1981. The 10-song collection starts with the desperate, “So Much Trouble in the World” and only goes into darker, more militant territory that isn’t apparent on the “Legend” compilation that most casual fans begin their Wailers experience with.
So why this album? Why now?
“The crisis that’s happening around the globe right now, it’s reminding us of the ’70s, so we decided to do these songs,” says Family Man.
The 66-year-old Rastaman speaks like his signature way of playing bass. His voice is deep and he takes pauses that end right after you wonder if you’ll hear from him again. Sometimes there are bits that are tricky to decipher through his thick Jamaican patois.
He says that the times leading up to recording the album were dark days.
“Because the studio vibrations were so heavy, I keep away from the studio for about a week or two and then I say, ‘Now I’ve got to break this ice. I’ve got to go in and see what’s happening,’” he says.
Shortly before recording the album, Marley had survived an assassination attempt (which he deals with on the “Survival” song “Ambush in the Night”) and he had fired the band’s longtime manager.
“He was taking cash and not even accounting for it and we get rid of him,” says Family Man.
Family Man says that there was another person that the band wanted to bring in to produce their seventh studio album for a major label, something they had not done since early in their career as a band.
“The only producer that we said we’d love to work with was Quincy Jones,” says Family Man. “But we said if we can’t get Quincy Jones to produce it, we produce it ourselves.”
The band ended up producing it themselves.
What’s in a name
Family Man originally got his nickname because he was like another leader of the band. Marley was known as the Captain, and Barrett held down the low-end. But he grew into his nickname over the years in a different way.
“I was blessed with 23 daughters and 18 sons, 23 grand and two great grands,” he reports.