Wailers keyboardist Tyrone Downie died at age 66

by Nov 16, 2022News

Tyrone Downie
Before Tyrone Downie found fame with Bob Marley and The Wailers, playing sold-out shows across the globe, his prodigious talent was on show in Jamaican clubs and hotels.

Downie, also known as Organ D and Jumpy D, died in Kingston on November 6 at age 66. His death was cancer-related.

Tommy Cowan, who recruited Downie for his first recording session in 1971, said he last saw the keyboardist two weeks before his death, at an event in Kingston for Karen Smith, the late wife of famed bassist Jackie Jackson. Interestingly, Downie was a member of Jackson’s band, The Caribs, before he joined The Wailers.

After a stint in Ocho Rios, playing at the Basement and Hilton hotels, Downie returned to Kingston where he joined The Hippy Boys and Youth Professionals. Those bands had several musicians who also became world-famous such as Aston Barrett and his younger Carlton Barrett, his future Wailers colleagues, guitarist Alva “Reggie” Lewis, bassist Robbie Shakespeare, keyboardist Bernard “Touter” Harvey, and singers Carl Dawkins and Audley Rollen.

Rollen, an ordained minister of religion who lives in South Florida, recalls those days in east Kingston when both bands played at the Green Mist club.

(On the photo: Keyboard players Bernard “Touter” Harvey (left) and Tyrone Downie)

Bernard 'Touter' Harvey & Tyrone Downie

“I met Ty when he was playing with The Hippy Boys. At that time, Carl Dawkins used to do a lot of shows with the band, and after Carl’s departure Robert Shakespeare and myself became members of The Hippy Boys. Now, what was evident from the get-go is that Ty was special,” Rollen recalled. “Although he was young, he was quick in grasping, retaining, and improvising on the keyboards. He was very creative in producing catchy melodies for intros, solos and fills. With his big broad smile and warmth he was well-liked, and everyone wanted to play with him.”

After leaving The Hippy Boys and Youth Professionals, Downie joined The Wailers. His place in Youth Professionals was taken by Harvey, another talented teen, who played on Marley’s 1974 album, “Natty Dread.”

It was Downie who gave him his nickname.

“He was the previous keyboard player with Youth Professionals before I was tapped. He immediately gave me the moniker, Touter, saying there can only be one Organ D as people were referring to me as Organ D also. We became close friends and made our names doing sessions for just about every artiste and producer during that time,” said Harvey.

Their stars rose together during the 1970s. Downie and Harvey played on outstanding albums like Marley’s “Rastaman Vibration” and “Marcus Garvey” by Burning Spear.

They also performed with Marley and The Wailers in Jamaica on shows with Marvin Gaye and The Jacksons.

Rollen had solo success in the early 1970s with songs such as “Repatriation” and “Hallelujah.” Before migrating to the United States, he collaborated with his friends from east Kingston.

“Ty, the Barrett Brothers, and Reggie, played on a few of my tracks. One that immediately comes to mind is Oh My Darling. Tyrone was a great guy, and he’ll be truly missed; my deepest condolences to the family. RIP Ty, your work speaks for itself, we love you and God bless,” he said.

(Photo of Bernard & Tyrone courtesy of Bernard “Touter” Harvey)


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