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Third World Reggae Star William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clarke Dead at 65

William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke, the husky-voiced lead singer of internationally popular reggae band Third World, died of leukemia at his home in Florida, longtime friends and colleagues said Monday. He was 65.

Former bandmate Colin Leslie said the singer died Sunday in Orlando a week after he was released from a hospital following cancer treatment.

Clarke 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.

Stevie Wonder, who performed on stage with the band at Jamaica’s Reggae Sunsplash festival in 1981, co-wrote and produced Third World’s 1982 song “Try Jah Love.”

“He was a remarkable talent. Bunny had a great voice, something even Stevie Wonder admired,” Leslie said.

Clarke and Third World were known for seamlessly fusing reggae with soul and pop music, something they were occasionally criticized for by reggae purists. In a 1992 interview with Billboard magazine, he described the band’s identity this way: “Strictly a reggae band, no. Definitely a reggae band, yes.”

Drummer Willie Stewart, who kept the beat in Third World until 1997, said Monday that the fun-loving Clarke “loved his art but always had a joke.” Read more

Few reggae artistes benefit from a Grammy win

Thirty years after reggae was granted Grammy status, a leading music industry player has mixed views on its impact.

Maxine Stowe, a Jamaican who has worked with Island Records and Sony Music International, believes the benefits of a Best Reggae Album win depends on the artiste’s reputation.

“It does lift the profile in the reggae markets for some winners and is a resume and bio builder,” she said. “Only the winners that are already positioned in the mainstream selling stores would get a sales bump, not any that are just in the ethnic or reggae markets.” Read more

Marijuana no more dangerous than alcohol, says Obama

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama believes smoking marijuana is a “bad habit” but thinks legal penalties now fall disproportionately on minorities and that states legalizing pot should go ahead with their plans, he said in a profile released on Sunday.

“As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life,” he is quoted as saying in a New Yorker magazine article. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.” Read more