Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

SLY and ROBBIE

Reggae rhythm section: Noel Charles Dunbar (b 10 May 1952, Kingston, Jamaica), drums; and Robert Shakespeare (b 27 September 1953, Kingston, Jamaica). They played with virtually every major act in Jamaica. Dunbar had early success when he worked with Dave and Ansel Collins's 'Double Barrel' '69; Shakespeare worked on Big Youth's Screaming Target '73. Producer Jo Jo Hookins hired them for his house band the Revolutionaries '73 and they were headhunted by other producers: they worked with Lee Perry's Upsetters and Joe Gibbs's Professionals. An indication of the respect in which they were held is the diversity of acts on whose recordings they played, including Dennis Brown, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs (d 25 October 2010 aged 60, in London, of lung cancer), Burning Spear, Junior Marvin, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Dunbar released two solo albums Simple Spyman and Slick And Wicked late '70s.

Experience of the recording industry made them more business-minded; they became producers and formed their Taxi Productions label as an outlet, quickly striking paydirt with Isaacs's Soon Forward '78 and its follow-up Cool Ruler '79; they produced Black Uhuru's Showcase '79, an international success, and follow-up Sinssemilla '80. Island Records hired them as regulars at Compass Point Studios in Nassau; there they worked with Joe Cocker, Ian Dury, Bob Dylan, Grace Jones, Yoko Ono and the Rolling Stones. As Bits and Pieces they scored a hit with 'Don't Stop The Music' '81; their album output includes Language Barrier '85 (with guests Wally Badarou, Manu Dibango, Dylan, Herbie Hancock), Rhythm Killers '87 (both produced by Bill Laswell) and The Summit '88. Taxi Fare '87 on Hearbeat was a compilation of their productions, uncredited singers including Sugar Minott and Dennis Brown. A list of their session work would fill pages.