Sly on tour with Peter Tosh, 1979
|Birth name||Lowell Fillmore Dunbar|
10 May 1952 |
|Associated acts||Sly and Robbie|
Dunbar, whose nickname was reportedly given for his passion for Sly & the Family Stone, launched his musical career while still in his adolescence, playing with a local group, The Yardbrooms, at the age of fifteen. His recording debut was in 1971, when he appeared on an single, Double Barrel, by Dave and Ansell Collins. Dunbar subsequently continued to play with Ansell Collins in a band, Skin, Flesh and Bones.
Meeting Robbie Shakespeare in 1972, then playing the bass guitar for The Hippy Boys, the two began a lifelong friendship. When Shakespeare was asked by producer Bunny Lee to recommend a drummer for a recording session for The Aggrovators, he remembered Dunbar. Following the session, Dunbar and Shakespeare agreed to keep working together. Their first break came when they accompanied Peter Tosh on his album, Legalize It (1976). The duo continued to play with Tosh's band until 1979, recording four additional albums — Equal Rights, Bush Doctor, Mystic Man and Wanted Dread and Alive and producing Tosh's hit duet with Mick Jagger, "(Keep On Walking) Don't Look Back" (1978).
Working together with Robbie Shakespeare, Sly and Robbie are considered one of the world's premier rhythm sections for their work in the field of reggae. In 2001, Dunbar recalled that The Mighty Diamonds' song "Right Time" was particularly tricky, evoking both skepticism and imitation: "When that tune first come out, because of that double tap on the rim nobody believe it was me on the drums, they thought it was some sort of sound effect we was using. Then when it go to number 1 and stay there, everybody started trying for that style and it soon become established." According to The Independent, the entire album Right Time was "revolutionary", the breakthrough album of "masters of groove and propulsion" Dunbar and Shakespeare, with "Sly's radical drumming matching the singers' insurrectionary lyrics blow-for-blow."
Dunbar and Shakespeare formed their Taxi Records label in 1980. It has seen releases from many international successful artists, including Black Uhuru, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Ini Kamoze, Beenie Man and Red Dragon.
Sly and Robbie also played on Bob Dylan's albums Infidels and Empire Burlesque (using recordings from the Infidels sessions). Other sessions include their appearance on three Grace Jones albums, and work with Herbie Hancock, Joe Cocker, Serge Gainsbourg and The Rolling Stones.
In 2008 Sly Dunbar collaborated with Larry McDonald, the Jamaican percussionist, on his long awaited debut album "Drumquestra" for Executive Producer Malik Al Nasir and his "MCPR Music" label in Dubai. The album featured Toots Hibbert, Bongo Herman, Steel Pulse producer Sidney Mills Sticky Thompson from The Wailers and Dollarman from The Easy Star All-Stars. Sly Dunbar performed in an orchestra of drummers; conceived by Executive Producer Malik Al Nasir and Larry McDonald, which Larry described as a "Drumquestra". The album was recorded live in the Harry J Studio in Kingston Jamaica and mixed at Wyclef Jean's Platinum Sound Recording Studios in New York, by  Serge Tsai.
Brian Eno remarked of Sly Dunbar: "You get the impression that Sly Dunbar is chained to a studio seat somewhere in Jamaica, but in fact what happens is that his drum tracks are so interesting, they get used again and again."
- "Biography by Craig Harris". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
- Bradley, Lloyd (2001). This is Reggae Music: The Story of Jamaica's Music. Grove Press. p. 479. ISBN 0-8021-3828-4.
- Murray, Charles Shaar (1999-03-12). "The rhythm kings Drum and bass are at the heart of popular music and for 20 years Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have been acknowledged the best. But who are their own favourites?". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- Coleman, Nick (31 May 2009). "Album: Larry McDonald, Drumquestra (MCPR)". The Independent (London).
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