Words by Jesse Serwer—
Feb. 6 being Bob Marley’s birthday and all, the Earthstrong of another reggae icon, Third World vocalist William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke, tends to go mostly unnoticed.
But Bunny nearly became “the next Bob Marley,” or something close. With a rock-influenced sound distinguished by Cat Coore’s soaring guitar solos, Third World were one of the reggae acts most poised to fill the vacuum left by Marley after his death in 1981. In 1982, the year after Marley’s passing, the group worked with Stevie Wonder on their album You’ve Got the Power, and even got the opportunity to perform on network TV in the U.S., quite an accomplishment for a reggae band in those days.
The show they appeared on, SCTV, was a sketch comedy program starring John Candy, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy and other future Hollywood players, that had become Canada’s equivalent of Saturday Night Live. In 1982, a year after SCTV was picked up in the States by NBC, Third World were invited on the show to perform their Stevie-produced single “Try Jah Love,” and even appeared on a sketch with the “The Fishin’ Musician” portrayed by John Candy. Fortunately, the wonders of YouTube have kept this superb performance alive:
While the awesome “Try Jah Love”—one of the best fusions of reggae and R&B ever—was certainly the standout track on You’ve Got the Power (My personal favorite Third World album, over even 98 Degrees in the Shade), the supremely funky “You’re Playing Us Too Close,” also co-written and produced by Wonder, comes pretty damn close. Fortunately, the YouTube gods have unearthed some mindblowing footage of Stevie, Bunny and Third World bassist Richard Daley rocking out in the studio on a 10-minute version of “You’re Playing Us Too Close.” Check it out: