February is celebrated as Reggae Month, but it is also a month where the genre lost (and birthed) some of its brightest stars.
Sunday, February 2, marked six years since Third World’s lead vocalist William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clarke died in Florida after battling leukaemia.
“His legacy reminds me of Dennis Brown’s because their personalities were the same.”— Jack Scorpio
The Manchester-born singer was the frontman of the reggae fusion group for almost 40 years, after replacing Milton ‘Prilly’ Hamilton in 1976. He made his album debut with the group on 96 Degrees In The Shade and contributed to the band’s international success with his emotive style of singing that is heard on hits like Now That We’ve Found Love, Try Jah Love and Committed.
But Clarke also had success as a soloist, though he often rejected that label.
Record producer Maurice ‘Jack Scorpio’ Johnson recalled working with the crooner on his first solo album recorded as ‘Bunny Rugs’, titled Talking to You, released in 1995.
“He used to come to my studio to do dubplates and we end up being friends and start do some voicing til it ended up being an album,” Johnson told BUZZ. “Him seh him never really do a solo album yet, and he wanted to do one. It was still a Third World vibe cause Cat Coore was part of it too. Him come and play nuff of the guitars and even some of the songs they did for Third World like Now That We’ve Found Love was on it, we just changed the rhythm.”
The 13-track album featured Nadine Sutherland, Papa San, General Trees and Cobra, and followed his 1975 album released under the moniker ‘Bunny Scott’.
Johnson described Clarke as warm and easy-going and said he supported young talent, including Sean Paul.
“Him bring Sean Paul to my studio and said, ‘this youth is great’, and he believed in him,” he said “They recorded a version of Now That We’ve Found Love, which I think was Sean Paul’s first recording. It never got the real buzz, but I gave the record to Bunny before he died. He said he wanted to put it out again, and I think that would have been historic. His legacy reminds me of Dennis Brown‘s because their personalities were the same; they loved music and we’re never in it for the money and were just really good, loving people.”
Clarke also had a brief stint with Inner Circle before later joining members Stephen ‘Cat’ Coore and percussionist Irvin ‘Carrot’ Jarrett later in Third World.
Clarke would have turned 72 on February 6, which is also Bob Marley’s birthday.