RIP February 6, 1948 - February 2, 2014
Lead Singer of Third World Band & solo Entertainer
"I'm very happy where I am right now. It’s a great “TIME” for me.”
Blessed with one of the richest, most expressive talents in contemporary music, the vocals of William “Bunny Rugs” Clark are an essential component of global “Reggae Ambassadors” Third World Band’s enduring success. Rugs’ profoundly emotive singing, as heard in the somber commentary “96° in the Shade”, the euphoric “Now That We’ve Found Love”, or the spiritually impassioned “Try Jah Love”, renders a TIMEless quality within Third World’s music and its messages. As one of the long running Reggae bands of all TIME, Third World celebrates over 37 years on the musical map with 10 Grammy nominations, 23 albums, and a plethora of awards including the prestigious United Nations Peace Medal.
Following the success of Third World’s latest album “Patriots”, released in January 2011 on the band’s newly formed Third World Music Group label with distribution from NY based reggae independent VP Records, Rugs has previously released three solo albums: “To Love Somebody” a Lee “Scratch” Perry” production, “What A World” and “I’m Sure”. Rugs will be releasing his fourth solo project “TIME” in on his Raw Edge Production label in 2012. “The title was deliberately chosen to reflect my belief that if you don't have respect for TIME, you don't have respect for yourself,” explained Rugs, who is also one of the primary songwriters for Third World. “I have been working on “TIME” for about three years now with an amazing group of producers and musicians. Although my solo project expresses another side of me, it is also an extension of Third World’s music.”
In 2011 Rugs digitally released three tracks from “TIME”: “Love Is Blind” produced by “the Riddim twins” Sly & Robbie details the pitfalls of loving blindly, set against a classic “Tune In” one-drop rhythm; the beautiful lover’s rock tune “Just Can’t Deny”, produced by renown saxophonist Dean Fraser and “Kurfew”, which addresses the three-day incursion into Kingston’s Tivoli Gardens community in pursuit of drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke in 2010; on behalf of the 80 people who lost their lives in Tivoli, Rugs offers a fervent plea for justice: “what about our rights, what about the principle, who is going to help those caught in the middle?” Coproduced by songwriter/producer Mikey Bennett of Grafton Studios and Rugs. “I wanted to create some kind of excitement and test some of the songs before I released the album,” says Rugs, “and the messages I get on Facebook and from friends, fans & family indicates that people can’t wait for the album and that these songs have generated some kind of vibe.”
Rugs’ singing has been creating a positive vibe for nearly 50 years. Born on February 6, in Mandeville, Jamaica, and raised in downtown Kingston, he was given the nickname “Bunny” from his grandmother because he liked to “jump around like a damn rabbit” and “Rugs” from his band mates “when they found out I liked to sleep on rugs and the floor.”
Bunny Rugs was about 14 years old when he realized he “had a voice”; his mother wanted him to sing at her East Queen St. Baptist Church but he wasn’t interested in that. Rugs’ family initially settled at 47 Foster Lane before moving to 36 Johns Lane between Barry and Law St, an area of Kingston.
At 15 years old the precociously talented Rugs auditioned at Kittymat Club on Maxfield Ave. The club’s manager Horace Forbes was so impressed by Rugs’ vocals he was chosen as the lead singer for the house band, Charlie Hackett & The Souvenirs. Although Rugs couldn’t (initially) tell his mother the big news because she wanted him to sing in her church, his father readily gave him his blessing, which Rugs says was “the key that opened the door to a singing career”. “I started out fairly young, during the Ska and Rocksteady era,” he reflects, “and Jamaican artists weren’t recognized internationally yet because our music was just getting started.”
Rugs attended the Jamaica School of Arts and Crafts for about two and a half years with the intention of pursuing a career as a fine artist but he found it difficult to concentrate due to his love of music. In 1968 Rugs migrated to New York City where he worked various jobs but music continually beckoned. “I worked on Wall St, I drove a yellow cab in Manhattan, I was offered a job at UPS and at a hospital; I even did an off Broadway play "Lament To Rastafari", written by Edgar "Nkosi" White, but I really didn’t focus on any of it too much because in the back of my mind I knew what I wanted to do,” Rugs recalled, “so I just concentrated on my singing.” He became the lead singer with Hugh Hendricks and the Buccaneers, a popular Brooklyn based party band, a gig that lasted about a year. Rugs formed his own group “The Wild Bunch” in 1971; two years later he returned to Jamaica and signed on as the lead singer with Inner Circle, a band formed by brothers Ian and Roger Lewis, on bass and rhythm guitar, respectively, featuring Michael “Ibo” Cooper on keyboards, Stephen “Cat” Coore on guitar and William John Lee “Root” Stewart on drums. Back then Inner Circle were a top 40 cover band and before long Cooper, Coore and Stewart broke away and started writing and performing original material in their newly formed band: Third World.
“I was the lead singer with Inner Circle for about two years, before Jacob “Killer” Miller,” Rugs reminisces. “Then I headed back to New York because my friend’s girlfriend got a job working for the president of Atlantic Records and she told me I should make a demo tape of some of my songs and she would pass it on to the folks at Atlantic.”
While Rugs was preparing that demo, Third World arrived in New York on their first US tour and performed at the Bottom Line in Greenwich Village. Rugs took in their performance and with the encouragement of his long TIME friends he decided to return to Jamaica as Third World’s lead singer.
Rugs’ soulful delivery provided the ideal complement for the superb musicianship that has characterized Third World since their formation in 1973. The band has fused myriad influences including R&B, Jazz, Roots Reggae, even classical strains into a singularly spectacular identity that has earned them worldwide appeal, transcending racial, cultural and national boundaries. “The appreciation for the band started in Jamaica, the sound was fresh and the guys are really great musicians.”
For “TIME” Rugs has employed the same illustrious musical standards that has earned Third World numerous hits and countless awards over the past 38 years. Rugs’ top notch cast of producers and songwriters includes the aforementioned Mikey Bennett, Jamaica’s premiere drum and bass duo Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, saxophonist Dean Fraser, as well as, Augustus “Gussie” Clarke, Dean Pond of Rymshot, Delroy Pottinger, Sheldon “Young Veterans” Pennicott, Anthony “506” Blair, Elise Kelly of Irie FM and Richard “Bello” Bell, who co-wrote with Rugs the lyrics of seven of the album’s fifteen tracks.
Utilizing deeply grooved roots Reggae rhythms “TIME’s” moods range from romantic musings of “We’ve Got The Formula”, “Settling Down” and “You’re my Everything”, which Rugs wrote for his wife, to the solemn societal observations of “Solutions” and the inevitable acceptance of “just another lesson learned” on “It’s TIME”. “Don’t Give It Up” is an anthem of against-all-odds persistence and “Neva Gonna Give Up” offers praises to the Almighty as an inspiring and ongoing source of strength. The bonus track, “Land We Love: Jamaica” marks the 50th Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence. “Land We Love” is a song for the people of Jamaica… The song celebrates the culture, the food, the history, the musicans, the athletes, the scholars, the farmers, the fishermen, the many faces of Jamaica. Each track on this superb effort reflects Rugs’ unparalleled talent while reconfirming his contentment with his life and career, an enviable place to be nearly 50 years after he embarked on his extraordinary musical journey. “I consider myself extremely fortunate because there are very few people in the world who do something that they really love, and get paid to do it. I have been able to travel the world and take care of my family, which to me is the most important thing; I don’t think there is anything higher than that,” Rugs beams. “The kind of reactions the songs from “TIME” and Third World’s “Patriots” are getting is very satisfying, and I think the quality of my voice is richer and cleaner than it was years back. I'm very happy where I am right now. It’s a great “TIME” for me.”
RIP February 6, 1948 - February 2, 2014