By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Tues. Feb. 4, 2014: The Facebook page of the band that made the song ‘96° in the Shade’ popular became the place fans turned to Monday as news broke of the passing of Third World’s lead vocalist/guitarist and songwriter, William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke.
Clarke, who spent 38 years with the band, passed away Sunday at his Orlando, Florida home, four days shy of his 66th birthday, after a battle with cancer. Reports indicate he had recently been released from an intensive care unit in a Florida hospital.
“Bunny Rugs, your contributions to Music and Humanity will always be appreciated and never forgotten. Thanks for being my friend and making my life more interesting. Rest in Peace my brother,” wrote George Michailow on the band’s FB page.
“Such a sad loss of such a beautiful soul,” Terry Lanthier posted. “Bunny, you will live on in our hearts and your beautiful voice will live on forever in your music. Love!!!!”
“Fly away home to Zion, Fly away home… the work is over…,” Robert Thomas added even as Antoinette Hall posted: “Thanks for the music Bunny, see you in the afterlife making more music. Bless to the families.”
On Twitter, singer Wayne Marshall posted: “R.I.P to the great Bunny Rugs from the legendary Third World band. You will be missed” while Anthony B added: “”the Spirit Lives…….”
Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Lisa Hanna, said “Bunny Rugs’ voice was distinct.”
“He had a charisma and stage presence that was spellbinding with a smile that was vibrant,” she added.
Clarke, 65, worked with the band Inner Circle and top reggae producer Lee “Scratch” Perry in Jamaica before joining Third World in 1976. The next year, the band released “96 Degrees in the Shade,” one of its most popular albums. The group was signed to Island Records and had hits on British and U.S. charts, including “Now That We Found Love,” “Always Around” and “Reggae Ambassador.” He performed on all of Third World’s records except the group’s debut.
As well as performing and recording with Third World, he continued to record as a solo artist, releasing the Jack Scorpio-produced Talking to You album in 1995, with guest contributions from Papa San, Cobra and General Trees.
In 2012 he released the single “Land We Love”, with profits going to the charities the Jamaican Children’s Heart Fund (the charity for which he was a spokesman) and Chain of Hope. The single was taken from the album Time, released in September 2012. Later that year he received a Caribbean American Heritage Award for Outstanding Contribution to Reggae.
The singer is survived by a wife and eight children.