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Flu forced reggae icon Bunny Wailer to cancel Fort Lauderdale gig, agent says

Bunny Wailer battering down the flu, cancels Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta gigs

Living reggae legend Bunny Wailer was a last-minute no show to his Friday gig in Fort Lauderdale due to the flu, according to a statement issued by the musician's agent. He also canceled a Sunday show in Atlanta.

An expectant crowd had gathered at the Culture Room Friday to see the last original surviving member of The Wailers take the stage when a midnight announcement revealed that Wailer, 69, was in the hospital where they were running tests.

"To my Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta fans, I have been unable to fulfill the last two dates of my 40th anniversary Blackheart Man Tour in your area … due to a viral flu that had been affecting my band since we hit Austin, Texas (April 17)," Wailer said in an announcement released by his agent.

Wailer's statement said he and his musicians were at "various stages of recuperation." Wailer praised his band for delivering a full roster of shows "despite the uphill battle and toll" the illness had presented.

The Jamaican artist was advised during a "routine consultation" Friday that "it would be harmful for me to continue under these conditions," Wailer's statement said.

It had been more than six years since Wailer's last South Florida appearance. He had headlined Dubfest at the ArtsPark in Hollywood in September 2009.

Born Neville O'Riley Livingston, Wailer formed The Wailers with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh in 1963. The band has sold more than 250 million albums worldwide, according to their website.

Marley died in 1981 after battling cancer. May 11 marks 35 years since Marley's death in Miami. Tosh was shot and killed in his home in Jamaica in 1987.

Since going solo in 1976, Wailer, a singer-writer and percussionist, has released 29 albums on his own.

The Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta gigs were Wailer's final two dates of a 16-city North American tour, which kicked off April 13 in San Francisco. Wailer hopes to reschedule his missed show at the Culture Room for later this summer.

"I thank my many old and new fans … for the warm and lively reception that you gave us," Wailer said. "And I look forward to returning later this summer to many of your area festivals."

An ambulance seen outside the venue at 10 p.m. Friday was there to tend to a female patient who was transported to a hospital, said Capt. Greg May, of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.

tealanez@tribpub.com, 954-356-4542 or Twitter @talanez

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