Jamaica mourns the loss of Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper, a founding member of the renowned reggae band Third World, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 71. The music icon had been courageously battling cancer for several years.
The year 2023 has brought unimaginable sorrow to the Cooper family. Tragically, Ibo Cooper fell ill just two weeks after the sudden and heartbreaking loss of his wife, Joy. The family had already suffered a devastating blow earlier in the year when Cooper’s son, the talented disc jockey Arif Cooper, passed away in March, suspected to have succumbed to a heart attack.
Expressing profound sadness at the passing of “one of Jamaica’s iconic musicians,” Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport, conveyed her condolences to Cooper’s children – Arianne, Akiri, and Abean – as well as to the wider local and international music community. Grange recalled Ibo Cooper as a steadfast advocate for the music industry and a remarkable music educator. She remarked, “Ibo was a strong and constant voice for the music industry and an exemplary music teacher. Generations of Jamaican musicians have been shaped by him, and our industry is better for having had him. I also benefited from his advice as a member of the Entertainment Advisory Board (EAB). May his soul rest in perpetual peace.”
Born on January 14, 1952, in Clarendon, Jamaica, Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper embarked on his musical journey with the influential reggae band Inner Circle before co-founding Third World in 1973, alongside Steven “Cat” Coore, who was a guitarist and cellist. After contributing significantly to Third World’s legacy, Cooper decided to part ways with the band in 1997.
Ibo Cooper continued to make invaluable contributions to the music scene as the head of the Caribbean, Latin American, and jazz department (now known as Popular Music Studies) at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston. He also held the position of chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA).
In recognition of their profound influence on the development of Jamaican music, Cooper and his former bandmate, Coore, were honored with the Order of Distinction in 2005, both receiving the rank of Officer (OD). Their enduring impact on the world of music will always be celebrated and remembered.