Tyrone Downie, Keyboardist With The Wailers, Dies at 66

Tyrone Downie, a keyboardist and producer who is best known for his work as a member of Bob Marley & The Wailers, died Saturday (Nov. 5) in Kingston, Jamaica after a brief illness. He was 66.

Born May 20, 1956 in the capital, Downie was drawn to music from a young age. He went on to study at the Kingston College and often sang with the chapel choir.

Downie carved his name in music history when he joined Marley’s band in 1973, making his recording debut on Rastaman Vibration, and contributing keys and backup vocals to some of legendary reggae act’s recordings into the 1980s.

“Reflecting on brother Tyrone Downie, Bob’s keyboardist, who made his transition yesterday,” reads a statement on the late Marley’s official social accounts. “Rest in peace brother.”

Across his career, Downie also played with The Abyssinians, Beenie Man, Black Uhuru, Buju Banton, Peter Tosh, Junior Reid, Tom Tom Club, Ian Dury, Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, Alpha Blondy, Tiken Jah Fakoly and Sly & Robbie, and, prior to the Wailers, was a member of the Impact All Stars.

A statement from Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, founded by Marley, reads: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of Wailers keyboardist, Tyrone Downie. Tyrone joined The Wailers just before the age of 20, making his recording debut with the band on Rastaman Vibration. We are blessed to count him as a member of the Tuff Gong Family.”

Several of Downie’s compositions appeared on the big screen, including 1989’s Slaves of New York and The Mighty Quinn.

Downie settled in France in the mid-to-late 1990s, during which time he focused on production and worked closely with Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour.

The multi-instrumentalist also had an impact on Grace Jones, the iconic Jamaica-born singer and actor. Jones penned the 1983 song “My Jamaican Guy,” which she later revealed was written about Downie.

Downie went on to released the solo album Organ-D — his nickname — in 2001.

He is survived by nine children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, The Gleaner reports.

Lars Brandle