Third World started when keyboard player Michael “Ibo” Cooper and guitarist (and cellist) Stephen “Cat” Coore (son of former Deputy Prime Minister David Coore), who had originally played in The Alley Cats then Inner Circle, subsequently left to form their own band along with Inner Circle singer Milton “Prilly” Hamilton.They recruited bassist Richard Daley, formerly of Ken Boothe’s band and Tomorrow’s Children, and added drummer Carl Barovier and former Inner Circle percussionist Irvin “Carrot” Jarrett before making their live debut in early 1974.
After recording some tracks with Geoffrey Chung which were not released, the band’s first single was the self-produced “Railroad Track” (1974). In their early days they played primarily in Kingston’s hotels and nightclubs and (along with The Wailers) supported The Jackson Five when they played at the Jamaican National Stadium.
They were soon signed by Island Records and toured Europe with The Wailers. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 1976. The album included a cover of “Satta Massagana”, originally performed by The Abyssinians, which became a local hit. Hamilton and Barovier were replaced by singer (and another former Inner Circle member) William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke and drummer Willie Stewart before the recording of their second album, 96° in the Shade (1977), which included several local hits. Notable among its eight tracks were “1865 (96° in the Shade)”, a reference to the 1865 Morant Bay rebellion, “Rhythm of Life” and the album’s only cover, “Dreamland”, written by Bunny Wailer. They played in front of 80,000 people at the Smile Jamaica festival in 1976.
In 1977 the band collaborated with psychiatrist Frederick Hickling on the Explanitations show which was performed at Kingston’s Little Theatre early the following year.
Third World’s greatest success came in the late 1970s and early 1980s, peaking with their cover version of The O’Jays’ “Now That We Found Love” from their third album Journey to Addis, a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic in 1978, reaching the top ten in the UK. Journey to Addis became a top thirty hit album in the UK. They had first met Stevie Wonder in Jamaica in 1976 and the single prompted him to perform with them at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in 1981 in the wake of Bob Marley’s death, playing his tribute to Marley, “Master Blaster”.Third World went on to perform several times at the festival, and they also took part in the ‘Reggae Sunsplash USA’ tour in 1985. Wonder also wrote, along with Melody A McCully, their 1982 hit “Try Jah Love”, which brought them further exposure in North America. They were also guests during the third season of SCTV.