Tyrone Downie, a keyboardist and producer best known for his work as a member of Bob Marley & The Wailers, died Saturday (November 5) in Kingston, Jamaica after a short illness. He was 66.
Born 20 May 1956 in the capital, Downie was drawn to music from a young age. He went on to study at Kingston College and often sang with the chapel choir.
Downie carved his name into music history when he came to Marley’s band in 1973, and made his recording debut on Rastaman Vibration, and contributing keys and backup vocals to some of the legendary reggae act’s recordings into the 1980s.
“In consideration of 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 before the Wailers was a member of the Impact All Stars.
A statement from the Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, founded by Marley, read: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of Wailers keyboardist, Tyrone Downie. Tyrone joined The Wailers just before the age of 20, and earned 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 the 1989s Slaves of New York and The Mighty Quinn.
Downie settled in France in the mid-to-late 1990s, where he focused on production and worked closely with Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour.
The multi-instrumentalist also influenced Grace Jones, the iconic Jamaican-born singer and actress. Jones wrote the 1983 song “My Jamaican Guy”, which she later revealed was written about Downie.
Downie went on to release the solo album Organ-D – his nickname – in 2001.
He is survived by nine children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, The Gleaner reports.