Duke Bootee, who co-wrote and appeared on Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s classic “The Message” died Jan. 13 at the age of 69.
Born Edward Fletcher, Bootee died at his home in Savannah, Georgia of end-stage congestive heart failure, according to his wife, Rosita Fletcher.
Fletcher wrote the song, originally called “The Jungle” in 1980 about a New York transit strike.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were reluctant to record the song, but it became a hit in 1982. It also gave mainstream hip-hop music a social and political consciousness that continues today.
Fletcher delivers the song’s opening lines, “It’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under,” but his role on the track and its impact on hip-hop is mostly forgotten in music history.
When Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip-hop act ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, Fletcher was not one of the honorees.
Fletcher joked in 2013, “I’ve always thought: ‘If I’d known what it was going to do, I’d have kept it for myself.’”
“The Message” was named No. 1 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time in 2017.