Glowing tributes have been coming in fast and strong for Ibo Cooper, the musical genius and “phenomenal man” who co-founded Third World, the band of Reggae Ambassadors which is celebrating 50 glorious years in music. Cooper, who separated from the band in 1997 and continued to make his indelible mark through academia, passed away on Thursday evening after a brief illness.
An official statement on Friday morning spoke to the depth of the family’s sadness and the mettle of the man.
“To say we are heartbroken is an understatement. It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved Kingsley Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper. A phenomenonal man. A wonderful father. A man whose talents were extraordinary and pure genius. Ibo was humble and gave generously to everyone he encountered. We will miss him immensely, but we are grateful for all that he was and all that we are because of him,” the tribute said in part.
Simply signed “from his children”, the message continued, “The love and support are welcomed, and we send you comfort as you also come to terms with the news of his passing. Thank you. Let us truly honour him by making the world a better place for all mankind and future generations, because that was his mantra and he lived it to perfection.”
Reacting to the news of Cooper’s death, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange noted that the day was made even sadder, seeing that Cooper’s wife died two weeks ago and their son died seven months ago. The family was in the midst of final arrangements to lay to rest wife and mother Althea Joy Cooper.
“I couldn’t believe the news when I got it. His son Arif died, his wife died after, and now Ibo is gone. It is just too much. We were close. He gave tremendous service to the ministry in an advisory capacity in the area of music. I will have a statement in which I will say more later,” Minister Grange said.
“My heart goes out to those he leaves behind in his immediate family circle, to members of Third World Band, of which he was a founding member, to his friends and associates, and to the music fraternity,” Grange added.
Third World Band, on their Instagram page, had this to say: “Walk Good Brother. God bless your eternal soul K. Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper, OD JP. Your music is the soundtrack of our lives.”
Some members of the entertainment fraternity have also hopped on to social media to pay tribute. Jana Bent, the sister of musician Rupert Bent, spoke to him directly.
“Ibo … Jah lift you up to the heavens with a welcoming Reggae Party [title of Third World song] celebrating a life of creativity and performance that brought healing and joy to millions, and an even more powerful life as a beloved, inspiring teacher, who knew how to bring out the excellence in his Edna Manley School of Music students, sharing your craft and your humour, giving them promising careers and putting food on their families’ tables. Thank you also for your support and wisdom, when I was with the Wailers and we were all touring in Europe. Thank you for the opportunities you gave my brother to become a part of the TWB family that loves and sustains him to this day. No one is perfect, everyone is just trying to do the best they can with all they have and understand. What you have contributed to the world is phenomenal and undeniable. Saluting you Ibo, as you join your wife and son and the reggae ambassadors that went before you. Jah Live and Jah Love,” Jana Bent said in tribute.
Cindy Breakspeare, the mother of Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley, was at a loss for words, but she managed to find some. “I hardly know what to say … SIP Ibo … the magic of your talent, your music, will be missed more than you’ll ever know. To see you sit at the piano and get lost in your creative energy was such a gift to us on the many, many times we worked together. Thank you for the memories.”
Sean Paul, an artiste who always acknowledges the work of those on whose shoulders he stands, was simple and to the point with his tribute – “RIP great one Ibo Cooper.”
Wayne Marshall stated “legends never die. Rest well Uncle”.
Born on January 14, 1952, keyboardist Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper was a member of the pop-band Inner Circle prior to founding Third World with Stephen ‘Cat’ Coore in 1973. Third World made their debut with the self-produced single Railroad Track in 1974, and when the Jackson Five came to Jamaica later that year, they supported the sibling group in their performance at the National Stadium.
Chris Blackwell of Island Records signed the band and offered them a record deal and a chance to go on a European tour, on which they opened for The Wailers.
Their debut album, Third World, was released in 1976, but the band’s big break came the following year with the release of the album 96 Degrees In The Shade.
Cooper, up until the time of his passing, was head of the Caribbean, Latin American and Jazz Department (Popular Music Studies) at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston.