“The drum, it is the heartbeat, and the bass, it is the backbone” Listen to Aston “Family Man” Barrett’s isolated bassline on Bob Marley’s Is This Love

Photo of WAILERS and Aston BARRETT and Bob MARLEY, Bob Marley performing live on stage at the Odeon with Aston 'Family Man' Barrett
(Image credit: Photo by Ian Dickson/Redferns)

The late Aston “Family Man” Barrett’s body of work is a living textbook on the theory and practice of reggae bass guitar. With Bob Marley & the Wailers, each of his bass parts seemed to feature its own melodic and rhythmic ingenuity. 

“Fams” had already crafted riddem-rich sub-hooks on such classics as Stir It Up, Get Up, Stand Up, I Shot the Sheriff, No Woman, No Cry, Exodus, and One Love when he hit the studio with Marley to record Kaya in 1978. 

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Chris Jisi was Contributing Editor, Senior Contributing Editor, and Editor In Chief on Bass Player 1989-2018. He is the author of Brave New Bass, a compilation of interviews with bass players like Marcus Miller, Flea, Will Lee, Tony Levin, Jeff Berlin, Les Claypool and more, and The Fretless Bass, with insight from over 25 masters including Tony Levin, Marcus Miller, Gary Willis, Richard Bona, Jimmy Haslip, and Percy Jones.