The year 2014 has been a whirlwind for the legendary reggae band Third World. William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke, their lead singer for four decades, passed away at the age of 65 of leukemia. The band, which is best known for their rendition of the O’Jays’ “Now That We Found Love” and the Stevie Wonder-penned “Try Jah Love,” took time to mourn the death of their friend.

Third World had already recorded a significant amount of music recently released on two LPs: one celebrating their time in the music business (with help from the likes of Stephen and Damian Marley, Gregory Isaacs and Inner Circle) called “Patriots” and a covers album titled “Under the Magic Sun.” Some of the records had the last vocals ever recorded by Clarke. The beginning of the year was tough on Third World co-founder Steven “Cat” Coore, who stopped by the AmNews to talk about the band’s plans and his memories of Clarke.

“Rugs had been in New York, and he came back to Jamaica in the early 70s,” said Coore when discussing how he and Clarke met. “One day, he came to where Inner Circle rehearsed and said he was a singer and he wanted to join a band. He had the classic Richard Roundtree look with the sideburns and the sharp afro. And I’ll never forget—he sang a song by Engelbert Humperdinck and a Tom Jones song. And it was really good.”

“It just grew from there,” Coore continued. “He and I became very close. Best friends. He was the best man at my wedding. He’s just one of these people that once you knew him, you were impacted by his personality. He was so bubbly. He was so effervescent and so witty and a very, very amusing person, and I’m going to miss him for that. It’s very sad, but it’s the way of the world.”

When asked about how Third World’s continued to exist for 40 years with few changing parts, Coore said the base of band members’ relationships with each other hadn’t changed.

“To be honest, it’s one of those things—when we found our music alliance back in the early 70s—where there wasn’t any questions as to whether this was something that we’ll keep on doing,” Coore told the AmNews. “The kids from my generation saw music as a career, not as something you do for five to 10 years. Our parents were the ones who were saying, ‘Did you have anything to fall back on?’”

With the rise of the Internet as a major player in music, Third World, like many other groups, has seen a decrease in sales but an increase in popularity around the world.

“The success that Third World got in the early days, we cherish that success and kept that success as our motivating factor to keep going,” said Coore. “We’re one of these bands that has been able to play music all over the world, and it’s been really cool that we’ve been able to do that also. Because with the Internet and the media and such, it’s quite easy for a new act to be known quickly. I don’t think it was that easy in our time. It took a lot of marketing and record label work behind us.

“I think [the Internet] has done a lot for us you know,” Coore continued. “When we started our website, we started with 5,000 followers. We’re up to 300,000 now. We can use that kind of benchmark to know how many people we’re reaching. But these kids, like these white college reggae artists like Slighty Stoopid and those kind of bands, they already know their niche market is in the college set. So when they see 300,000, they can take a chance and say we’ll play University of South Florida, but it’s different for a band our age.”

Coore said that the despite all of that, the Internet has helped music lovers expand their knowledge of Third World. “A lot of guys will hit us up on Facebook and say, ‘I didn’t know you guys did that song,’” he said. “But they were able to access it by download or YouTube, and that’s really cool.”

Coore also touched on the mixing of music and how, back in Third World’s early days, the band was criticized for mixing reggae with other elements like R&B and funk. But Coore said that the mix wasn’t intentional. It was just something that came natural to the band members due to their influences.

“We had the influences of Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Bob Marley, Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight,” said Coore. “We had R&B and we had reggae. Those were the major genres in Jamaica, but you had the occasional pop record that was really cool to me. Air Supply has a huge amount of hits in Jamaica. Whenever they come down, they sell out.

“That where we’re coming from,” Coore continued. “We have the natural mixture. That’s how we can come up with ‘Now That We Found Love’ and ‘Try Jah Love’ and all of that kind of stuff and mix the funk with the reggae.”

With the mixing of musical genres being so commonplace today, Cooper says it has created a world where people from all walks of life are doing different things and putting their flavor into the mix.

“White college kids in the 1970s would not have had a reggae band that sounded authentic,” said Coore. “Now, in 2014, there are dozens of them all over the place. German reggae artists are taking a lot of the prominence in terms of selling out concerts and selling records more than reggae artists from Jamaica. Reggae artists are losing work in Europe because German reggae artists are huge. They are the ones that headline the festivals.

“That’s been kind of eating into the financial base for playing music around the world,” Coore said. “We have to accept that reggae music is a style now and anyone is free to play it.”

Currently, the band’s about to embark on a North American tour, with A.J. Brown replacing Clarke on vocals (starting July 3 at the International African Arts Festival in Brooklyn). They’re working on new music for an album that’ll see production help from Damian Marley.

“We have some new ideas, and we really like what he’s doing with them so far,” said Coore.

For more information on Third World, go to thirdworldband.com or search for Third Love on Facebook.