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A year later, Third World strives to keep Bunny Rugs spirit alive

Published:Sunday | February 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Shereita Grizzle, Gleaner Writer

On February 2, 2014, the music fraternity was sent into mourning, when they learnt that William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke, lead singer of the legendary reggae band, Third World, had passed. With just over a year since his death, the remaining band members admit that while it has been difficult, knowing Rugs' legacy lives on has been a source of comfort throughout the past year.

Richard Daley, the band's bass player, told The Sunday Gleaner that Rugs' spirit will never die and that through his music, his presence is still felt every day.

While reflecting on Rugs' talent, Cat Coore expressed that the band misses Rugs, and says they will continue to keep his memory alive through music. "Bunny Rugs will always be remembered for his incredible singing voice, his personality, his sense of humour and his wit," he said. "We in Third World miss him dearly, but his memory lives on in every song that we hear. Long live Bunny Rugs, he will never be forgotten, and neither will his voice."

Tony 'Ruption' Williams, the band's drummer who has been with the group for 18 years, described the past year as a sad but special time. "Our brethren Rugs left us a year now and it is a special but sad time, because we miss him, but we know his spirit is still with us, so we are on the road just carrying on the works in his memory. He was a great human being, very fun guy, and we had some great times together, and he was one of the greatest singers in the world, so his presence will always be here with us."

While many celebrated the 70th birthday of reggae legend Bob Marley, Third World doubled up on the day's festivities as it was also Rug's birthday. The band held a special concert in Washington, DC, to mark the historic occasion, where they were joined by Jesse Royal as the event's headline acts.

Nevertheless, the year has been "far from easy" for Rugs' daughter, Sheneka Clarke. "My father's passing was the most painful, devastating experience of my life. At times, it seems too much hurt to bear. I have come to rely on memories to help me heal. Those memories, along with the help of my family, friends and guiding light of my father, have pulled me through. Though Bunny Rugs is no longer with us physically, his spirit still lives. I am more fortunate than most people who have lost a loved one. I say this because I can listen to his music, watch his videos and see his image anytime, anywhere. I am definitely a daddy's girl. To me, there will never be anyone greater than my father. I carry (his memories) with me in everything that I do, knowing that he is with me every step of the way. He left an indelible stamp on this world, his legacy will carry on for generations to come," she said.

Rugs' replacement

Since Rugs' passing, AJ Brown has taken up duties as lead singer, and commenting on his performance over the past year, the band's manager, Heather Cameron, says the singer was doing well and that the band was happy to have him as part of the family. "AJ Brown is doing a terrific job and the band is grateful to have him on the front line," she said before revealing that the band has been in studios working on releasing new material in the coming months. "Look out for a new single in the next month or so, that single will be produced by Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley."

Bunny Rugs, born William Clarke, was the lead singer for internationally acclaimed reggae band Third World for more than 35 years. Formed in 1973, Third World originally consisted of lead singer Bunny Rugs, guitarist Steven 'Cat' Coore, keyboardist Michael 'Ibo' Cooper, and percussionist Irvin 'Carrot' Jarrett. The band released 20 studio albums, five live albums and earned 10 Grammy nominations for best reggae album. Throughout Rugs' six-decade career, he also released six solo albums.