Designate Mr Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper a ‘national treasure’
In the early years of Third World band’s existence, some people found it difficult to appreciate the fact that this extremely talented group of Jamaican musicians did not wish to be compartmentalised.
Mr Michael “Ibo” Cooper, a co-founder of Third World who passed last Thursday, spoke to that in an interview with Mr Kwame Dawes published in January 2004 in Bomb magazine.
“The first time it ever hit me that bands specialised was when we went to England in 1975. A journalist, a white man, asked us when we were going to become a reggae band. That’s when it occurred to me that in those countries you were either this or that. I always thought that this was narrow thinking, and I always had a problem with people trying to narrow my intelligence,” Mr Cooper said.
We applaud. For, as Mr Cooper correctly pointed out in that interview, “The English and Americans do not have a problem with their people being versatile. Sting plays jazz, reggae, anything he wants to play. Yet when we came from the Caribbean they wanted us to be narrow.”
Jamaica Observer journalist Mr Howard Campbell captured the ethos of this band very well when he wrote last Saturday that Third World, calling on influences ranging from The Skatalites to Santana, “dared to be different in the 1970s roots-reggae era” and Mr Cooper “was a driving force behind their eclectic sound”.
That eclectic sound included the epic work 1865, also known as 96 Degrees In The Shade, which referenced the Morant Bay uprising for social justice led by now National Hero The Right Excellent Paul Bogle, and which continues to resonate throughout Jamaica.
Over the years, Mr Cooper and his colleague band members — Messrs Stephen “Cat” Coore, co-founder; Alexander Anthony “Bunny Rugs” Clarke; Richard “Richie” Daley; and William “Willie” Stewart — provided Jamaica and the wider world with music similar in message to 1865 that either gave us food for thought, soothed troubled souls, or got us dancing.
While Mr Copper, in that Bomb magazine interview, shared songwriting credit with his colleagues, saying, “Our writing was done individually or collectively depending on what was happening at the time,” it was clear that his talent, education and brilliant mind influenced the group’s works in significant ways.
Veteran broadcaster, actor, and media practitioner Ms Fae Ellington last Thursday asserted that Mr Cooper was “one of those outstanding Jamaicans who really contributed significantly to our culture, to our music” and was a man who relished a good discussion on many issues.
Born in Clarendon, Mr Cooper, we know, grew up in a family which include his aunt, a music teacher, who helped develop his prodigious talent.
It was, therefore, not surprising that after parting company with Third World in 1997, Mr Cooper dedicated his time and talent to teaching youngsters at the School of Music at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts for more than two decades.
We join his colleague, Mr Stewart who, in a Facebook post, hailed Mr Cooper’s love for music and humanity: a man who “was always willing to help uplift our minds, soul and spirit to a higher consciousness”.
Last week we proposed in this space that the State should examine the idea of designating deserving Jamaicans the title of ‘national treasure’. Mr Cooper could be among the first.