A profound sadness envelops the music community with the passing of Bernie Pitters, a legendary figure in the Canadian reggae industry. On Saturday, December 9th, at the age of 68, Pitters succumbed to complications from diabetes at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, leaving behind a legacy that resonates not only in the hearts of his family but in the rhythm and soul of Canadian reggae music.
Bernie Pitters was more than just a musician; he was a cornerstone in the foundation of the Canadian reggae movement. For years, he contributed to the growth and evolution of reggae in Canada, shaping the cultural landscape through his talent, passion, and unwavering dedication. Pitters played a pivotal role in establishing a reggae identity in the country, laying the groundwork for future generations of artists to follow.
Pitters’ journey was not without its challenges. Battling diabetes for several years, he faced the harsh realities of the disease, enduring both physical and emotional hardships. His struggle with sight loss and the aftermath of a debilitating fall in 2019 showcased his resilience and determination. Despite these setbacks, Pitters continued to be a source of inspiration, a testament to his love of music.
As news of Bernie Pitters’ passing spread, an outpouring of grief flooded social media platforms. Colleagues, friends, and fans took to the virtual space to express their condolences and share memories of the reggae maestro. @iamjessiejones reminisced about a childhood shaped by Bernie’s influence, while @branchandru bid farewell with a poignant “Rest in eternal power, Bernie P.” These heartfelt messages reflected the impact Pitters had on the lives of those who crossed his musical path.
Musical Comrades Remember him and share their thoughts: Winston Hewitt, a friend and fellow musician, expressed his sorrow, describing Pitters as a friend and collaborator who played a vital role in shaping the Canadian reggae landscape. Hewitt highlighted Pitters’ musical prowess, emphasizing that his legacy would endure, echoing through time. Leba Thomas, daughter of Toots Hibbert, shared a touching memory of Bernie touring with Toots & The Maytals, emphasizing his warmth and wonderful persona.
World renown Jamaican Saxophonist Dean Fraser wrote, “R.I.P Great one, thanks for your work.”
Radio Host and Business Entrepreneur Elaine Thompson said in her message “May the ancestors receive you with much rejoicing, Bernie. Remembering the one line you always tease me with. Rest in love.”
The Human Rights, Bernie Pitters’ last band, paid tribute to their mentor, teacher, and “Groove master.” Fondly remembering Bernie’s role as a guiding force, the band’s leader, Friendliness, described him as the Don and the General. The Human Rights’ journey with Pitters spanned decades, from the early 80s with Livestock to the formation of The Human Rights in 2007. His impact, both musically and personally, left an indelible mark on the band members.
The Human Rights’ lead singer, Tréson opened about the profound influence Pitters had on his life. Despite not having a close fatherly figure in his upbringing, Bernie became the father Tréson never had. He expressed gratitude for the invaluable life lessons Pitters imparted, emphasizing the reggae icon’s enduring legacy.
Born in Birmingham, England, Bernie Pitters moved to Jamaica at the tender age of eight. His musical journey traversed continents, leaving an imprint on the reggae scenes in both Jamaica and Canada. Pitters’ departure leaves behind four sons, Triston, Omari, Keadi, and Akiva, and two sisters, Madine and Lorren, who resides in the United Kingdom.
As Canada mourns the loss of Bernie Pitters, his memory will continue to echo through the reggae beats that shaped a generation. His contributions to the Canadian reggae movement were not merely musical but also inspirational. In the midst of sorrow, the reggae community celebrates a life well-lived, paying homage to a true legend, mentor, and friend – Bernie Pitters.