The Minister of Youth and Culture, the Honourable Lisa Hanna, MP has described the late Jamaican singer Bunny Rugs as a true Reggae Ambassador who had contributed the country’s rich and evolving culture.
At a celebratory service on Monday, February 24, at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston for the singer who was born Williams Alexander Clarke, Minister Hanna said it because of practitioners such as Rugs that the world took note of Jamaica’s music.
The Third World frontman died on February 2, 2014 after illness. He was born 6 February 1948.
The Minister’s full presentation follows.
‘And if you’re thirsty I will quench you, with my love
And if you’re hungry I will feed you, with my word
And all I ask of you is that you love as I do’
Powerful lyrics from the first track on the album ‘You’ve got the Power’ by Third World, one of the first LPs I bought as a young girl using my pocket money to buy records and began collecting music.
Thus began a decade’s long love affair with what would become one of the coolest, funkiest, roots, folk-pop, and hard rock Reggae bands to emerge out of Jamaica landing on the international stage as the Reggae Ambassadors of Jamaica!
Without a doubt, Third World’s lyrics are superb – the musicianship in the band is first rate, combining Reggae with other genres – but it was the vocals – Rugs’ unmistakable, husky, emotive vocals that became Third World’s signature.
It is a curious thing about life that our hearts can hold seemingly opposite feelings at the same time. Today, like all of you here, I am sad that our dear brother Rugs has passed away. But I am also proud and comforted by the memories and the rich cultural legacy that he leaves behind.
It is difficult to begin to think about him in the past because Rugs was so alive. So much fun. So contagious. That energy; that spunk; that spark was the reason that I became a lifelong Third World fan. It didn’t matter whether you knew him or met him — it was enough to just listen to a record to feel Rugs’ energy.
For 38 years, he was both the expressive voice and face of the band that became one of the world’s most popular Reggae acts. Third World’s lyrics, whether written by group members or someone of the stature of Stevie Wonder, are great. They sing about love, consciousness, peace and so many messages that are timeless and relevant in today’s world. Rugs’ stage presence was spell-binding. I could look at him forever with his big, beautiful smile and teeth so white — he defined vibrant. Oh, he had great charisma and style. In all the years of listening to Third World music and following the band, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the crown of Bunny Rugs’ head. He always wore a hat or a beret. He wore them so well. That too I took from him. I wore berets; I still do today — thanks to Rugs’ influence.
When many struggled to describe the band’s sound it was reportedly Rugs who nailed it with a succinct and profound description when he said: “Strictly Reggae band, no! Definitely a Reggae band, yes”!
With Rugs as the frontman, the band’s significant contribution to international music development and Pan Africanism was as much a recognition of their worth as it was of the country and people they represented. And always so beautifully and powerfully portrayed by a man who used his gift to impressively tell our story, as he did so effectively in the hugely popular and iconic release in the 70’s of ’96 Degrees in the Shade’ documenting an important period in our history when our people fought against oppression and stood up for our rights.
I am deeply sad that Bunny Rugs has passed away and we will no longer be able to go to a venue and watch him perform live with his beloved Third World. But I am grateful and proud of his contribution to music and in extension to our rich and ever evolving culture.
He was a true Reggae Ambassador who along with the rest of the band brought Jamaica’s music to the world. Indeed, it was because of the efforts of practitioners like the inimitable William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke, that the world stood up and took notice of our music.
Rugs’ success – Third World’s Success – paved the way for others who’ve come after them to achieve the international acclaim and success that many Jamaican singers and musicians enjoy today.
So as today I offer condolences to Bunny Rugs’ family including his musical brothers in Third World and his numerous friends across the world, maybe as the closing lyrics of that first track of my very first album so poignantly stated maybe…
‘It is time for the world to try Jah love,
The only love that can bring peace is Jah, Jah love
So won’t you try Jah love, love’