William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke (pictured), lead singer of the wildly popular reggae group Third World, passed away Sunday at his Florida home from complications due to leukemia at 65 years old, according to The Jamaican Gleaner.
Clarke had reportedly been receiving cancer treatments and was released from an Orlando hospital; he had only been home one week when he died. He would have turned 66 years old on February 6th.
Clarke began singing at age 15 with local bands in his beloved homeland of Jamaica before joining Third World in 1976. The group had instant success on these shores and in Britain but will always be remembered for their 1978 signature song “Now That We Found Love.”
Listen to “Now That We Found Love” here:
Music icon Stevie Wonder so loved the group that he felt compelled to work with them in the early eighties, co-writing and producing another of the group’s mega-hits “Try Jah Love” in 1982.
Watch “Try Jah Love” here:
Clarke, whose husky voice led the band in their unique sound of blending reggae with soul and pop, was highly criticized by folks who felt he watered down the pure reggae sound. Nonetheless, Clarke was awarded with the highly coveted Caribbean American Heritage Award for Outstanding Contribution to Reggae in 2012.
Despite his critics, Clarke continued to record with his group but also worked on various solo projects as well. In 2012, Clarke released a single, “Land We Love” with all of the profits going to his two favorite charities, Jamaican Children’s Heart Fund (he was their spokesman) and Chain of Hope, both organizations make open heart surgery possible for children and at no cost to their families.
Last year, Third World embarked on an anniversary tour and health problems forced Clarke to miss several appearances.
The man who was given the nickname “Bunny” by his grandmother because he used to hop around the house like one then given the moniker “Rugs” by his band members for his love of sleeping on the floor, leaves behind a wife and eight children.