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Jamaica loses a reggae ambassador - William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke dies at 65

Published:Tuesday | February 4, 2014 | 12:00 AM
William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke - File

Tributes have been pouring in for William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke, lead singer of the Third World band, who died in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.

"He had a charisma and stage presence that were spellbinding, with a smile that was vibrant. I personally will never forget him singing Try Jah Love and 96 Degrees in the Shade," said Lisa Hanna, minister of youth and culture.

Opposition Spokeswoman on Youth, Sports, Information, Culture and Gender Affairs, Olivia Grange, said: "Bunny Rugs will always be remembered as one of the truly talented and devoted pioneers of Jamaican reggae music, and as one of finest voices to have graced the Jamaican music landscape."

Clarke, who reportedly died from complications from leukaemia, was a mere four days short of his 66th birthday on February 6, a date he shares with Bob Marley, the reggae icon.

20 albums with Third World

After taking over Third World lead duties from Milton 'Prilly' Hamilton, Rugs went on to record more than 20 albums with the band, extending from the 1976 96 Degrees in the Shade through to the 2010 Patriots.

Among the slew of well-known songs that Rugs sang lead on are Committed, Now That We've Found Love and Try Jah Love.

With the death of its lead singer, Third World faces the same dilemma Inner Circle (a band Rugs also sang with) did in 1980 when Jacob Miller died in a car crash on Hope Road, St Andrew.

With Clarke too ill to tour with Third World during its ongoing 40th anniversary tour, AJ 'Boots' Brown filled in for European festival dates.

These included performances at the Reggae Geel Festival in Belgium and Reggae Sun Ska in France.

This year, Third World is slated to perform on the Blue Mountain Festival in rural St Andrew on February 22 and also has a clutch of summer dates on the US West Coast.

Yesterday, Frankie Campbell, chairman, Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates and bassist/manager of Fab 5 band, said: "Obviously, Bunny Rugs' sound is the sound of Third World. He had a unique sound. A lot of Third World's success is largely due to his unique sound."