The family of reggae icon, Bunny Wailer, is today expressing concern over events that have transpired since his death and charge that their father, though deceased, “is being held hostage”. One month after his passing, the family has still not been able to get Bunny Wailer’s death certificate, which is hanging in the balance over the signing of a record deal which is said to be the only way to free up funds needed to cover unpaid hospital bills.
In a joint statement, the beneficiaries said a shroud of secrecy surrounds their father’s estate, even as they have been told that there is no money to bury him.
“We have been kept in the dark by individuals who should have our best interest at heart. Some of us have taken the initiative to begin organising our father’s personal and business affairs. In doing so, we have discovered that, contrary to what we were being told, there has been (and is) more than substantial income to cover all expenses. Our father, though deceased, is being held hostage, while we are being forced to sign a deal with VP Records to cover these costs,” the statement said
The family, which includes all 13 of Bunny Wailer’s children, is of the opinion that if their father’s affairs were being managed in the way they should, they would not have been in the position that they are in. “There [should be] no reason for there to be outstanding hospital bills since 2020. We should not have to sign a record deal to bury our father. The truth is, however, Bunny Wailer’s legacy speaks for itself,” the children said in the joint statement.
They reiterated comments in a previous interview that Maxine Stowe, who has been Bunny Wailer’s manager and caregiver up until the time of his passing, “has no authority whatsoever as it relates to our father’s estate”.
RAS Records founder, Dr Dread, who has had a 20-year friendship and business relationship with Bunny Wailer, says he is all for a quick solution to the impasse. In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, he said that he had toured the world with Bunny Wailer, and over the years, they had several discussions. “Even though he asked me back for his publishing five years ago, we remained very good friends. I was in Jamaica in 2019 visiting with him, and I really am upset at what is happening. I have spoken to the family, and their focus now must be making sure that their father gets a proper burial. Maxine was his manager for years and his caregiver, and this is not about me liking or not liking anybody. I am not on anybody’s side. The 10 commandments say it clearly, ‘honour thy father’, and I really want to emphasise that,” Gary Himelfarb, aka Doctor Dread, said.
He feels that in the interest of maintaining the dignity that rightfully belongs to a singer and activist of Bunny Wailer’s calibre, the deal should be signed in order to free up some funds. “This deal is a quick solution. Bunny needs to be laid to rest in peace. It’s not like the company will own the rights to his catalogue. The hospital needs to be paid, the funeral home needs to be paid, and the only thing I am seeing now is this deal that will enable Bunny Wailer to get a proper, dignified burial,” he said.
And honouring their father is exactly what the family intends to do, and that includes protecting his intellectual property.
“The silver lining is that this whole experience has brought all the children of the estate closer together to protect and secure our father’s intellectual property. We would love to thank everyone for their continued prayers at this time. Time will be the judge,” the statement concluded.
Bunny Wailer’s daughter, Cen’C Love, who is herself an artiste, told The Sunday Gleaner on Friday that the situation was a cruel twist of irony.
“In my lifetime, I have seen my father pay hospital bills and funeral expenses for hundreds of people and to think that today is one month since my father’s body is in a freezer, and we still can’t get the death certificate. We have been going through the same thing for weeks. It’s like he’s dead and in chains. My father doesn’t deserve this,” she said.
When asked for a comment on the matter, Stowe told The Sunday Gleaner she did not want to go into any details and asked not to be quoted. “I already said I could only be addressed through my attorney,” was her statement.
A three-time Grammy Award winner, singer, percussionist, devoted Rastafarian and activist, Neville ‘Bunny Wailer’ Livingston was the original Blackheart Man, from his début solo album of the same name. He was a founding member of the iconic reggae group The Wailers with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, who both pre-deceased him.
He had a mild stroke in 2018, and was on the road to recovery when he suffered a second one in July last year that had left him incapacitated. Bunny Wailer died on March 2 at the Medical Associates hospital in St Andrew.