Two Jamaicans are among the greatest drummers of all time.

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Carlton Barrett is one of the greatest drummers of all time
Carlton Barrett is one of the greatest drummers of all time

Rolling Stone Magazine has named Carlton Barrett of The Wailers and Sly Dunbar of the Sly and Robbie duo among the 100 greatest drummers of all time. Unfortunately, another Jamaican, Winston Grennan, who created the one drop rhythm that Bob Marley and the Wailers rode to super stardom is not on the list. Barrett is ranked 29 on the list but should be ranked higher, he should definitely be in the top 10 and it can be argued that he should be in the top 5.

Rolling Stone rightfully credited Carlton Barrett for making the “One Drop rhythm” popular. The publication wrote:

Nothing sounds more certifiably reggae than Carlton ‘Carlie’ Barrett’s tumbling tom-toms followed by the high, whip-cracking snare that launched a thousand tracks. Arguably the single most influential musician in reggae’s history, Barrett popularized the music’s signature ‘One Drop’ rhythm in the Wailers and Bob Marley’s solo band. The ‘Field Marshal’ and his bassist brother Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett decelerated rocksteady’s rhythm into the locked-in slow grooves that came to define classic roots reggae. His dry drum sound — heard in tracks like Duppy Conqueror, Soul Rebel and Small Axe — and triplet-feel hi-hat served as a tractor beam for skanking fans until his 1987 murder at age 36.

The publication also points out that Bob Marley was a solo band, and the Wailers were a separate entity. As great as Carlton Barrett and his brother Aston Barret were to Bob Marley’s success, they are not making any money from the millions still being made from their music today. They were tricked into signing a contract where they were nothing but session musicians. That level of wickedness must have been orchestrated by a Babylonian like Chris Blackwell with Bob Marley the Rastaman being so caught up in the music, he did not notice what was happening on the business side.

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Carlton Barrett and his brother Aston played on all Marley’s albums for Island Records, including the groundbreaking Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration.

Sly Dunbar, the most recorded musician in history was ranked number 65. He also, should have been ranked considering the influence the duo Sly and Robbie has had, and how many other musicians have remake or sample their rhythms. The magazine said the following about Sly:

Nearly ubiquitous reggae drummer Lowell Fillmore Dunbar played with everyone and, due to how frequently his riddims have been sampled, is quite possibly the world’s most recorded musician. Nicknamed for his devotion to Sly Stone, Dunbar recorded his first track, “Night Doctor,” with the Upsetters at age 15. His 1972 introduction to bassist Robbie Shakespeare led to a life-long working relationship, notably in Peter Tosh’s and Black Uhuru’s bands as well as the Rolling Stones’ 1978 Some Girls tour. Sly and Robbie translated dub reggae to the stage better than anyone. “Me and Robbie didn’t realize what we were doing until Jamaican music went dubwise and the bass and drum would come right in your face,” he explained. The distance between Carlton Barrett’s relaxed swing and Dunbar’s fierce metronomic playing marks the place where roots reggae evolved into its dancehall successor.

See all: 100 greatest drummers of all time

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Winston Grennan



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1 Comment

  1. The Field Marshal is the greatest drummer of all time who gave Bob Marley that distinctive sound that created the Legend.

    Shamelessly the Marley Family blindly robbed him of all his money and sparkling talent as work-for-hire.

    Much love forever to the Field Marshal!

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