Born May 10, 1952, in Kingston Jamaica Lowell ‘Sly’ Fillmore Dunbar is one of the world’s best drummers. He is recognized by one half of the prolific Jamaican rhythm section and reggae production duo, Sly and Robbie.
One thing that makes Sly Dunbar a great drummer is his dedication and energy. He was only 15 years old when he started playing in a band called The Yardbrooms, and he has never looked back ever since.
He first appeared on a recording on the Dave and Ansell Collins album, Double Barrel. He Joined Skin, Flesh, and Bones band, where he had the opportunity to develop his skills further.
Sly attributes the greatest influence in his life to Lloyd Knibb, a drummer for The Skatalites. He admits to having spent long hours listening to his mentor, and always want to drum like him, or better. Other Jamaican drummers like Santa and Carly from The Wailer Band also give him the motivation to further improve his skills.
It was not until 1972 when he met and befriended Robbie Shakespeare, a bass guitarist for the Hippy Boys, that Dunbar’s career took a turn for the best. Robbie recommended him to Bunny Lee as an incredible drummer for the Aggrovators.
The two continued working together, with Peter Tosh, until 1981, after recording five albums. In one of the Mighty Diamonds‘ songs, “Right Time,” Dunbar was the mind behind the double tap on the rim. He admits that nobody knew it was him to do this, as many believed it was some kind of effect that was added through a computer.
In 1981, Dunbar and Shakespeare formed the Taxi Records label, which has seen many releases since it was launched. Artists like Black Uhuru, Chaka Demus, and Plier, Ini Kamoze, and Beenies Man, among others, have gone through their hands. He also played on a number of tracks produced by Lee Perry.
Sly and Robbie continued working together. They played on Bob Dylan’s albums Infidels and Empire Burlesque. As if that is not enough, the duo worked on other sessions, including appearing on three Grace Jones albums and playing alongside Herbie Hancock, Joe Cocker, and many other great minds.
In 2008, the Sly worked on a collaboration with Larry Macdonald, Jamaican percussionist, as produced his debut album, Drumquestra.
Dunbar also appeared in the 2011 reggae documentary “Reggae Got Soul.” He presented his inspiring story to the world, featuring on BBC as “The Untold Story of one of the most influential artists ever to emerge from Jamaica. This shows just how great the drummer is and how he changed the music industry for the best.
In 1979, Brian Eno was one of the number of fans for Dunbar’s work, where he commended his in-reggae power. Eno said that there is a 90% percent chance that any reggae record you buy has Sly as the drummer.
He was nicknamed Sly Stone because of his devotion to what he did. He seems to have a metronome in his bloodstream that agrees with every strike he takes.