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Wailing on Without Bob Marley and Peter Tosh

July 6, 1989 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Sixteen years ago, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and Robert Marley released ″Catch a Fire.″ The album catapulted the reggae trio to international fame.

A world tour followed. But Wailer, who is more at home in the hills of his native Jamaica than the concert stage, returned home and vowed never to go on the road again.

The mystical mountain man busied himself writing and recording songs on his own label, Solomonic, and farmed the land at the same time.

″I think I love the country actually a little bit more than the city,″ Wailer said. ″It has more to do with life, health and strength. The city takes that away sometimes. The country is good for meditation. It has fresh food and fresh atmosphere - that keeps you going.″

This year, he launched a tour to support his ″Liberation″ LP, which took him to 13 cities in the United States.

His recent performance at Radio City Music Hall with the Switch Dance Troupe marked his first New York appearance since selling out Madison Square Garden in a solo concert nearly three years ago.

Wailer was born Neville O’Reilly Livingston 42 years ago. His career began in 1963 in a Kingston, Jamaica, slum when he and his childhood friend, Robert Nesta Marley, teamed with Winston Hubert McIntosh, later to be known as Peter Tosh, to form the legendary group, the Wailers.

After the release of their first hit, ″Simmer Down″ in 1964, the Wailers’ popularity spread throughout Jamaica. By 1966, they had five records in the Jamaican Top 10. But the pulsating sound of reggae went largely unnoticed by the rest of the world until the ″Catch a Fire″ LP.

On their first tour, they met thunderous applause as audiences throughout the world jammed stadiums, packed concert and theater stages and lined dance halls to catch a glimpse of those ″natty dreadlocks″ from Jamaica.

While Marley and Tosh lost no time blazing international trails for themselves, Wailer headed for the Jamaican countryside to be close to nature.

Marley, whose ″I Shot the Sheriff″ was covered by such rockers as Eric Clapton, and who had become the biggest of the reggae stars, died of a brain tumor at the age of 36 in 1981.

Tosh, who left the Wailers in 1973 and formed his own group, Word, Sound and Power, was nominated for a Grammy for the LP ″Captured Live″ in 1985. He was gunned down and killed in his Jamaican home on Sept. 11, 1987, at the age of 42.

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Tosh’s son, Andrew, joined Wailer on portions of the ″Liberation″ tour.

Marley and the Wailers did more to popularize and refine reggae than any other artists. They had hits with ″Stir It Up,″ ″Get Up, Stand Up,″ ″No Woman, No Cry″ and ″Could You Be Loved.″

Bunny Wailer considers himself just as much a farmer as a musician, and helped provide food for victims of Hurricane Gilbert last fall.

″Sometimes people pay less attention to those things (food) but they turn out to be the most important things. I am a farmer,″ said Wailer, who was in the United States when the hurricane smashed into the Caribbean island.

Wailer chartered a jet, filled it with food and flew to Jamaica. When Wailer returned to his farm on the border of Portland and St. Thomas parishes, he found his home undamaged.

″Liberation,″ his fourth album on the Shanachi label, includes messages on hunger, drug abuse, apartheid and freedom. The LP also contains a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

″Based on the history it projects, it’s taken 400 years to write,″ Wailer said in an interview. ″When I said I was going into the studio, that only took four months. But to get all these things together, it has taken my lifetime and so many other lifetimes before.″