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'Ambassadors' Honoured - Golden State lauds veteran reggae group Third World
published: Monday | October 20, 2008

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Stephen 'Cat' Coore (left), Richard Daley (centre) and William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke of Third World. - File

In their 35 years as 'Reggae Ambassadors', Third World has travelled far and wide and much has been written about them.

However, when they played the 18th annual Jazz at Drew Festival, held at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, California in early October, they returned to their origins in the United States and a handful of honours spoke volumes about them.

Stephen 'Cat' Coore, guitarist, cellist and a founding member of Third World, told The Gleaner that "we were honoured by the city of Los Angeles, the California Senate and got a lifetime achievement award from Charles Drew University".

"It is unprecedented that any Jamaican band has done that."

On the night that they were honoured Third World also performed at Charles Drew. R&B group, the Chi-Lites and popular actor Malcolm-Jamal Warner of the Cosby Show fame performed before them.

"It was nice. Chi-Lites is a group that influenced most of the groups that came out of my era, so it was great," Coore said.

And California holds a very special place in Third World's history. "When we got signed to Chris Blackwell, he sent us to the (San Francisco) Bay area and a lot of our popularity in the US came from that. It was a good stomping ground then, and it is now," Coore said.

The awards were presented by Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Sonia Johnson, wife of Tony Johnson — a founder of Reggae Sunsplash.

Very honoured

"They were asked to present to us and we were very honoured by that," Coore said.

"These concerts are all about raising money for the faculty. The state was honouring us for 35 years as well as performing for Charles Drew."

Coore said it is one of about four black medical universities in the US.

Coore said that among Third World's previous honours have been a lifetime achievement award from the Governor of Florida, an award that Kenny Rogers and Betty Wright had also received.

However, "these were special because of the California connection. It is nice to be honoured by a state".

And, of course, it came in the band's 35th anniversary celebrations. The show was not, though, part of their celebratory tour, as it was a one-off event specially for the occasion.

"We are not touring right now. We are doing our 35th year anniversary album," Coore explained.

Third World has always had a major American link. They were signed at the height of their popularity in the 1980s to two major American companies —Mercury and Columbia Records.

Their two biggest hit songs in the US were written by African Americans. Now That We Found Love, from the 1978 album Journey to Addis, was originally done by R&B group the O'Jays and was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

Another hit, Try Jah Love from their 1982 album You've Got the Power, was co-written by Stevie Wonder.

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