Third World: Bio

The Ambassador's of Reggae Music:

Third World remains one of most enduring and popular Jamaican bands in the world. Unlike many Jamaican reggae bands, comprised of hungry street kids with raw talent, no formal musical training and only their passion and drive to spur them to the top, the members of Third World come from the Kingston middle class.

The band was founded in 1973 by Stephen "Cat" Coore and Michael "Ibo" Cooper. Cooper is a policeman's son while Coore's father was a deputy prime minister who also taught music. Both Coore and Cooper received formal musical training at Forster Davis School of Music and Kingston's Royal School of Music respectively. Each also had solo and group experience on the Kingston reggae circuit. Cooper and Coore met while playing for Inner Circle. Other charter members include Richard Daley, Milton Hamilton (another Inner Circle veteran), Irwin "Carrot" Jarrett (a veteran percussionist with considerable concert and television production experience), and Cornel Marshal. From the start, the band was meant to be self-contained, a rarity back then. Third World did this so they could perform wherever they wanted rather than constantly scrambling for musicians or a sound system to support their singing.

They made their debut at the 1973 Jamaican Independence Celebration. Though they performed steadily around Kingston, they had trouble finding a studio willing to record them because most of the studios also ran the sound systems. In 1974, Third World went to London, released their debut single "Railroad Track" and signed to Island Records. Their first album came out in 1975. It received critical accolades and later that year Third World opened for Bob Marley on his U.K. summer tour. That year Marshall was replaced by William Stewart, and in 1976, William "Bunny Rugs" Clarke replaced Milton Hamilton on guitar. The title track of their second album, 96 Degrees in the Shade (1977), has become a reggae classic, and it is considered to be one of their finest albums. Their third album, Journey to Addis, finally broke through to a bigger audience thanks to the R&B staple "Now That We Found Love," that Third World sang with a sophisticated blend of pop, funk and reggae riddims. The song, an international Top Ten hit, provided listeners the opportunity to sample the new Jamaican sound in a familiar aural environment.

Third World released three more albums through Island, but began feeling that they were standing too much in the shadow of the label's star act, Marley, and so moved to Columbia in the early '80s. Their first four albums did quite well in the U.S. and the U.K. with the single "Hooked on Love" from Rock the World (1981) making it to the Top Ten on the British charts. During the early '80s, Third World began working closely with Stevie Wonder who in 1982 penned and recorded another crossover hit with the group "Try Jah Love."

In response to critics, Third World justifies its forays into different genres as a means to keep the genre from stagnating. In making it accessible to wider audiences, they are also thereby making new inroads for their messages and making it music for the common people the world over. They are credited for being the first reggae act to add funk and to use a synthesizer. They were also instrumental in popularizing dub poetry, which in turn became the basis for dancehall, a form the band has increasingly embraced since the mid-'80s. Their 1985 album for Mercury, Sense of Purpose, marked their first foray into American hip-hop. Their 1992 album, Committed, was primarily a dancehall album though the title track spent time on the R&B charts. Subsequent recordings include 1995's "Live It Up" and 1999's "Generation Coming."

Posted: Fri - February 7, 2003 at 12:00 AM