Book Review: ‘The Wailing Blues’ – The Story of Bob Marley’s Wailers

The Story Of: Bob Marley’s Wailers – Wailing Blues

(Omnibus Press, 582 pp)
Author: John Masouri

Review By: T. Mathenia


We love to learn about the band members behind the frontmen.  Their stories are usually the most intriguing.  And here within the thick pages of Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley’s Wailers we find a story full of promise and sadness.  This re-counting is told from the viewpoint of bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett.  He tells of how he and his brother (Carlton Barrett) earned their stripes as musicians and sound architects in reggae music.

I enjoyed learning about the Barretts and hearing Family Man’s take on how everything went down.

While seeing Bob Marley through the eyes of someone so close to him serves to add flesh to the man/myth, the most enthralling/heartbreaking part of this book is hearing about the way the musicians in the reggae scene got shafted when it came time for acknowledgment and pay.  This didn’t just happen in reggae of course but knowing what a valuable contribution the Barretts made to the scene and Bob Marley’s music and their ultimate demise makes the ending that more tragic.

Masouri does a wonderful job of letting Aston “Family Man” Barrett recount his life and contributions while keeping timelines and a wealth of information as a reliable frameset.  Masouri makes sure to be responsible and attempt to check facts, dates and times via “annotated footnotes” for clarity’s sake but fails to include a bibliography.  His attention to facts and detail is respectable and for sure his skill at translating the legal woes of this band into layman’s terms is admirable as well.

I can’t say that this book as told from Family Man’s viewpoint served to endure me to Bob Marley, Rita Marley, Peter Tosh, Chris Blackwell, Lee “Scratch” Perry, or Bunny Wailer.  It did, however bolster my respect for members in the band (any band) who unless careful steps are taken often fade into the background when their legacy and stories are just as important as the frontmen and women.

Wailing Blues is a must read for anyone looking to learning about the history of reggae music.

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