Grammy nominated Third World leader passes

Reggae Legend Gregory Isaacs performs at the Sunset House of Blues in West Hollywood, Calif. on Wednesday, June 23, 2010.
AP Photo/Robert Kenney

The distinctive voice that led reggae ambassadors Third World through three and a half decades of musical adventures and 10 Grammy nominations will no longer champion the genre. On Feb. 2, William Clarke died at age 65. Also known as Bunny Rugs, his much rumored illness plagued social networks since last June when he was diagnosed with leukemia and diabetes. The very serious cancer forced him to abandon touring in celebration of Third World’s 40th anniversary year. Since hospitalization news surfaced that Clarke was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Florida hospital. However, recently fans were pacified with news that he was released from hospice care to further recover at home. The tragedy stunned fans who hoped the lead singer would return touring Europe with the group he had been leading since 1976, singing on 20 albums.

“I am sad that Bunny Rugs has passed away,” Lisa Hanna, Jamaica’s Minister of Youth and Culture said. “We will no longer be able to go to a venue to watch him perform with his beloved Third World.”

“However, I am grateful and proud of his contribution to music. He was a true Reggae Ambassador who, along with the rest of Third World, brought Jamaica’s music to the world.”

Clarke’s distinct voice, charisma and stage presence added to the allure of a personality Hanna described to be “spell-binding.”

She further noted that the singer commanded “a smile that was vibrant.”

His infectious voice will forever be recalled singing “Try Jah Love,” “Irie Ites,” “Forbidden Love,” “Now That We Found Love,” “Committed,” “96 Degrees In the Shade” and “Reggae Ambassador.”

Clarke took over the lead role with TW in 1976 but prior to that sang with the reggae group Inner Circle. He would have turned 66 on Feb. 6, the 69th birthday anniversary of Bob Marley.

FEBRUARY IS REGGAE MONTH IN JAMAICA

In addition to marking Black History Month in February, Jamaica regards the shortest month of the year as the one dedicated to lauding its home-grown reggae music.

Officially declared by Sir. Kenneth Hall — then Governor General of Jamaica — on Jan. 24, 2008, Reggae Month 2014 slates an abundance of diverse cultural entertainment to laud past and present contributors to the genre.

Throughout the month a range of reggae-focused activities, under the theme “The Journey Continues” will primarily be held in across the capital city of Kingston.

Reggae Month kicks off with a Reggae Legends Roots Party featuring poet Mutabaruka and others. The Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA) is the organizer of the month-long activities which include its signature “Reggae Wednesday” series. The series will highlight the social backdrop and genres of reggae; from mento to dancehall, dramatically chronicling the evolution and dynamism of the reggae experience. Each week live concerts will feature: traditional drumming, folk, mento, jazz, classical, ska and rocksteady, reggae, rockers, dub and dub poetry, dancehall, gospel and alternative music.

“Reggae Month provides us with another great opportunity to promote capital city Kingston and its rich cultural heritage,” Jamaica’s Director of Tourism John Lynch said.

“With the various events being held throughout the month, reggae fans will be able to celebrate the life and music of legends such as Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Peter Tosh and Gregory Isaacs.”

On Feb. 23 a free public concert will be held in the downtown section of Kingston, in tribute to Denis Brown, the Crown Prince of Reggae. This event will be a celebration of his prolific career through interpretations of his songs performed by leading reggae artistes.

Highlights of Reggae Month also include: – Music at the Museum slated to be held at Institute of Jamaica. A symposium, and honor awards ceremony along with a reggae trade fair are also scheduled.

“A visit to Kingston during February is sure to delight true reggae fans from around the world,” Lynch added.

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