RAW Founder Papa Pilgrim Passes

RAW Founder Papa Pilgrim Passes

Salt Lake City, UT - October 13, 2003 - - Papa Pilgrim, co-founder of Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide, passed away on Sunday, October 5th, in Aberdeen, Scotland, while traveling with his life partner, Wendi Watson.  He suffered a massive stroke due to a blood clot in the brain on October 2, and passed away in the hospital in Aberdeen.

Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Pilgrim was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He traveled extensively throughout the Far East, courtesy of a 20 year association with the American military establishment, and he had an even longer affiliation with the State of Utah as a clinical social worker. Still employed by the State of Utah in January 2003, he investigated elder abuse.

Pilgrim's interest in Reggae music began shortly after he moved into the neighborhood of "a long-haired hippie."  Attracted by the heartbeat of "that weird music," he soon found himself singing along to the sounds of 10CC's "Dreadlock Holiday." Shortly thereafter, Pilgrim purchased his first album, Peter Tosh's Legalize It. Thus began a heartfelt linkage to - and a lifetime love for - the musical art form of Reggae music, which he said he knew was "divinely inspired."

Pilgrim's writing about Reggae music began even more serendipitously. A chance remark to The Beat's publisher that he was on the way to Jamaica to attend Sunsplash '89 was met with a request that he "cover" Sunsplash for the magazine. Since 1989, articles and features by Pilgrim were published extensively in Reggae Report, The Beat and CD Review and, to a lesser extent, in the Reggae Festival
Guide, Jamaica Times, and Reggae World (of Malta). His column, aptly named "Pilgrim's Perspective," featured the words and sounds of independent artists and appeared regularly in Dub Missive Magazine. Pilgrim was always quick to tell people that he was not in the "business" of Reggae music; he neither promoted concerts nor produced or managed artists, and with very few exceptions, received any
remuneration for writing about Reggae music and its makers.

From 1985 to 2000, Pilgrim hosted "Nite Roots," a weekly Reggae radio show on KRCL (90.9 FM) in Salt Lake City, featuring independent artists and labels. Pilgrim said, "Every week on the radio, I say that, no matter how large one's Reggae collection might be - nor how long one has been listening to Reggae music - I guarantee that you will hear at least one song you've never heard before. And, more than likely, the song will be by an artist you've never heard before."

A man of faith and culture, Pilgrim believed that Reggae music plays an instrumental part teaching us to to save our planet and truly live together peacefully as one. That knowledge provided Pilgrim with the impetus and motivation to organize Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide (RAW) in December, 1992. Pilgrim retired from active leadership of Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide in 1999, and limited writing about Reggae music to an "as requested" basis.

Pilgrim's interest in travel never decreased. In 2002, he spent a month in Scotland and Ireland, and took a month long, 10,000 mile Discover America tour ending in
Newfoundland. His final trip trip abroad, his fifth, had been planned as a month in the Scottish Highlands.

According to his wishes, Papa Pilgrim was cremated and his ashes will be spread in a private place. He did not want a memorial service or flowers.

Tom Pearson, RAW #33 and RAW's Executive Director, requests that "all of us in RAW re-confirm our livication to Reggae music, the music Papa Pilgrim found so inspiring. I think the greatest memorial we could create would be to make Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide a living testament to the vision of this humble giant."

Reggae music was the background music of Papa Pilgrim's life. In January, he was quoted as saying, "I cannot imagine a day without the 'one drop' in my head."

Papa Pilgrim goes forward, before, now and always, trodding in Jah's Holy Light.

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Nan Lewis, RAW #72
RAW Board of Directors

Posted: Sat - November 8, 2003 at 08:51 PM