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Barry Llewellyn, an original member of the influential harmony trio, the Heptones, died Wednesday at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH). He was 64.

Leroy Sibbles, Llewellyn’s colleague in the Heptones, confirmed his death in an interview with The Gleaner. He said Llewellyn died shortly after he was taken to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH). No cause of death was given.

Llewellyn had lived in the United States for most of the last decade and was expected to return there Friday.

Born in Trench Town, Llewellyn formed the Heptones with Earl Morgan in the late 1950s. The group’s line-up went through several changes with Glen Adams, future keyboardist with producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s house band, The Upsetters, one of its early member.

It was not until Sibbles joined that the group began recording, first for producer Ken Lack. Their songs for Lack made little impression, but a move to the more established Studio One saw their career taking off.

Working with producer Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, the Heptones had a remarkable run during the rocksteady era of the late 1960s. Their hit songs included Fattie, Fattie, Sweet Talking, Equal Rights, Take Me Darling, and Sea Of Love.

Many of the trio’s biggest hits at Studio One can be heard on On Top, considered by musicologists to be the ultimate rocksteady album.

Sibbles handled most of the vocals but Llewellyn was out front on Take Me Darling and Book Of Rules, a song he co-wrote with producer Harry ‘Harry J’ Johnson. Released by Johnson in 1973, Book Of Rules is widely regarded as a reggae standard.

After Sibbles left in the mid-1970s, Llewellyn and Morgan soldiered on, recruiting Naggo Morris as a replacement. They recorded for various producers including singer Dennis Brown’s DEB label.

After almost two decades apart, the classic Heptones line-up regrouped in the 1990s when there was a ska and rocksteady revival in Jamaica and parts of Europe and the US.

Llewellyn, Morgan, and Sibbles performed on the popular Heineken Startime oldies series and recorded an album, Pressure, with producer Tappa Zukie in 1995.

Barry Llewellyn is survived by his widow Monica and children.

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