KINGSTON, Jamaica — 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.
Mr. 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 US 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 with the band at Jamaica’s Reggae Sunsplash festival in 1981, wrote 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.
Mr. 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 as: ‘‘Strictly a reggae band, no. Definitely a reggae band, yes.’’
Drummer Willie Stewart said Monday that the fun- loving Mr. Clarke ‘‘loved his art, but always had a joke.’’