Terence Wilson, drummer and founding member of reggae band UB40, died Sunday in Trinidad. He was 64.
Wilson’s son Tatum confirmed the news to The Washington Post, saying that he was on a private jet bound for the Caribbean island when he took ill. He was then airlifted from Trinidad to New York City, where he was pronounced dead.
“His career as a musician spanned four decades and was absolutely amazing,” Tatum Wilson said. “The crowds were always the same: the passionate Jamaican people who listened to reggae music, and the crowd that traveled to hear their reggae.”
Although Wilson’s band played the most well-known reggae music, such as the “Rebelution” reggae sound, the musicians were known for their well-rounded, traveling presentation.
“Everywhere he went there was a reggae party and he rocked the house and all of that,” said Stefano Baccini, director of Georgetown University’s Lundberg Dance Series, who worked with Wilson and UB40 in 2015 and 2014. “On every tour, he had people coming to wherever he was playing from all over the world.”
Wilson is credited with co-founding UB40 in the 1980s, with his band playing some songs written by reggae stars Jimmy Cliff and Marcia Griffiths, and others by prominent voices in the “Jamaican Sound System” genre, such as Sly Dunbar and his Impressions. Over the years, UB40 and Wilson incorporated American influences, including soul, funk and hip-hop music. Wilson was responsible for the various instruments UB40 played, and he later switched to performing UB40’s music alone after touring with the band for a number of years.
“He was really an incredible musician,” Baccini said. “He was a very natural musician. He played guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer and organ. He could arrange any song.”
“He was a good ska player,” he added. “He was versatile in what he played, what he played with. He did a lot of beautiful work with band and as a soloist. He had such a great mind and great intuition, and played a variety of music.”
Wilson died while he was returning to Trinidad with other members of the band on the private plane after traveling to Canada for a Christmas concert on Dec. 15. He had been diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor while on tour with UB40 on Australia’s Gold Coast in April. He canceled other tours and dates as a result of that illness. He did not have any health issues in 2015 or during the 2016 Caribbean leg of the band’s “Fly All Night” tour.
“The people there loved Terence Wilson and made him the best he could be,” Tatum Wilson said of his father. “They created an atmosphere around him that made him the best he could be.”
Although he was diagnosed with a non-malignant brain tumor, Wilson still underwent treatment. In 2015, UB40 canceled several shows due to his sickness. However, Wilson was expected to return to the group in 2016. He told the New York Times that he felt “fantastic, much better,” after undergoing treatment.
Wilson is survived by his wife Barbara Jane Shaw, son Tatum, and siblings Charmaine, Oris and Tariq.