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Music world mourns Bunny Rugs
William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke, lead singer of internationally renowned reggae band Third World, died of leukemia at his home in Florida, on Sunday.
He would have celebrated his 66th birthday yesterday. Former bandmate Colin Leslie said the singer died after he was released from a hospital following cancer treatment.
Clarke joined Third World in 1976 having previously played with Inner Circle and top reggae producer Lee “Scratch” Perry in Jamaica. In 1977, Third World’s 96 Degrees in the Shade became a major hit globally. Signed to Island Records other hits on British and US charts, included Now That We Found Love, Always Around and Reggae Ambassador. Clarke performed on all of Third World’s records, except the group’s debut.
Throughout this week condolences have been pouring in internationally for the deceased reggae star.
Roy Cape, a personal friend of Clarke, remembers the Jamaican artiste with much fondness. He said: “I lived between 1972 and 1974 in New York and Rugs and myself worked together, along with Fortunia Ruiz. We played with a band called Hugh Hendricks & The Buccaneers, doing the Jamaican circuit. Rugs was one of the most talented singers I’ve known, and was one of the sweetest vocalists from the Caribbean. He could sing anything, and could also play a little guitar.
“To tell you how close we were when I was returning home in 1994 Rugs was the person who got the U Haul truck and drove it to the airport to transport the things I was bringing to Trinidad.
“When he was here with Third World to perform at Spektakula Forum, when Rugs stayed at the Hilton, I visited him there with Black Stalin. When he and Cat Coore greeted us, he became so excited to see me he knocked down the lamp, smashing it. Rugs was a very emotional person.”
Former National Calypso Monarch Black Stalin (Leroy Calliste) who is saddened by Clarke’s passing, said: “He was very close to Roy Cape, and I met him a couple of times. His music was beautiful. Bunny was exceptional. He was already an excellent musician in New York before he joined Third World.”
Renowned rapso artiste and Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (Tuco) president Brother Resistance (Lutalo Masimba) expressed “shock” over Clarke’s passing. This week he said: “Music has lost one of the great ones there. I was very shocked to hear of his death. It really stunned me. When I was in Jamaica we hanged out a bit, liking each other’s vibes in the music. Bunny had some good ideas for improving reggae music as far as presenting the music on the stage was concerned. His death is a great loss to the music world.”