You Say It's Your Birthday: Robbie Shakespeare of Sly & Robbie

Celebrating a birthday today is legendary reggae musician and producer

Robbie Shakespeare, who was born 44 years ago today in Kingston, Jamaica.

Together with his partner Sly Dunbar, Shakespeare was a pioneer of the

reggae dub sound, a thundering reggae groove which is heavy on the bass and

echoing electronic drums. Shakespeare got his start as a session bassist,

playing on recordings for artists such as Burning Spear and Bunny Wailer.

He met Dunbar, a drummer, in 1975 when the two played in Peter Tosh's band,

Word, Sound and Power. In 1976, the two formed the Revolutionaries, one of

the leading dub bands of the '70s. They also continued to play in Word,

Sound and Power, recording with Tosh and playing on his tours of North

America and Europe. In 1978, the duo disbanded the Revolutionaries, left

Word, Sound and Power and started working as producers for their newly

formed label, Taxi Productions. They produced albums for such legendary

reggae artists as Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs, Prince Far-I and the Wailing


In 1979, Sly & Robbie released the first album bearing their name, Sly

Wicked and Slick. 1980 brought a distribution deal with Island Records

and the arrival of Sly and Robbie recordings to American shores, mostly in

the form of Taxi compilations. The duo were quite prolific in the early

'80s, touring with Black Uhuru, producing reggae artists such as Jimmy

Cliff and branching out to record with such non-reggae artists as Grace

Jones, Joe Cocker and Joan Armatrading. In 1983, Sly and Robbie were the

rhythm section on Bob Dylan's Infidels and then did the same on Mick

Jagger's 1985 solo debut, She's The Boss. Also in 1985, the duo

released Language Barrier with funk bassist Bill Laswell and special

guests Dylan and Afrika Bambaataa. 1987 brought Rhythm Killers,

which featured appearances by Bootsy Collins and Shinehead, while 1989's

Silent Assassin offered collaborations with KRS-One, Queen Latifah

and Young MC. In 1988, the duo produced Maxi Priest's hit cover of Cat

Stevens' "Wild World," one of the first reggae songs they worked on that

did not feature their signature sound in any way, shape or form. Sly &

Robbie continue producing, recording and remixing today, most recently

working on a remix of The Fugee's "Fugee-La" from 1996's The Score.

Other birthdays: Randy Bachman (Bachman Turner Overdrive), 40; Meat Loaf,

50; Greg Ham (Men At Work), 44; Shaun Cassidy, 39 and Mark Calderon (Color

Me Badd), 27.