Papa Pilgrim dies after 'massive stroke'

HOWARD CAMPBELL, Observer writer
Saturday, October 18, 2003




Papa Pilgrim

THE man known to reggae fans worldwide as Papa Pilgrim died in Aberdeen, Scotland on October 5.

A statement from the Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide (RAW) organisation he co-founded in 1992 said Pilgrim died of a "massive stroke" while vacationing in the Scottish mountains.

The RAW press release stated that Pilgrim was cremated. It did not give details of his real name, age or if Pilgrim is survived by any children, but disclosed that his longtime companion, Wendi Watson, was with him when he died.

Tom Pearson, an executive member of RAW, reckons Pilgrim was in his mid-60s.

Pilgrim was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but lived for the last 20-odd years of his life in Salt Lake City, Utah where he was a social worker. According to RAW, he discovered reggae in the mid-1970s when the roots sound of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh was catching on in the United States.

By 1985, Pilgrim was operating his own radio show, Nite Roots, weekly on KRCL in Salt Lake City. The programme exposed underground reggae and ran for 15 years. Pilgrim also wrote extensively on Jamaican music in several magazines, including The Beat, Dub Missive, CD Review and Reggae Report.

But he was best known for starting Reggae Ambassadors Worldwide with Edward "Rastaman Nane" Taylor-Cline, a show promoter from Grand Rapids, Michigan. The movement quickly gathered momentum and presently has over 700 members in 54 countries.

RAW members are in constant contact and post the latest reggae developments in their respective countries on the organisation's website (www.reggaeambassadors.org).

Roger Steffens, founder of The Beat, says he first met Pilgrim 13 years ago. Even then, Steffens says, he was determined to "unite reggae lovers across the world".

"He had this great wish to unite the unofficial underground of reggae lovers, first in America, and eventually the rest of the world," Steffens told the Observer. "He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams."