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William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clarke, Reggae Ambassador, Dead at 65

Stevie Wonder collaborator sang on Third World's internationally beloved "96° in the Shade"

William Clarke, who led venerable reggae group Third World, died at age 65 on February 2, the band has announced. Known as Bunny Rugs, he joined the Jamaican band for 1977 album 96° in the Shade, which won international critical acclaim and included the masterful title track.

Third World expanded their sound into rock, R&B, and beyond. They cracked the British Top 10 and the U.S. Top 50 with 1978’s “Now That We Found Love,” a cover of a 1973 song by the O’Jays. Stevie Wonder played alongside the band at a festival in Jamaica in 1981, writing and producing two songs for their album You’ve Got the Power the following year. Before Third World, Clarke recorded with legendary producer Lee Scratch Perry and was a member of the band Inner Circle as well as the duo Bunny and Ricky.

Junior Taylor, a former Third World tour manager, told the Jamaica Gleaner that Clarke’s death meant the loss of a unique voice, “a voice that throughout the 1970s and ’80s, made an impact globally for reggae music.”

According to The New York Times, Clarke passed away at his Orlando, Florida home from what former bandmate Colin Leslie said was leukemia. Clarke appeared on all the group’s albums except their 1976 self-titled debut and was still a member at his death. He leaves behind his wife and eight children.

Listen to “96° in the Shade” below.