Third World started when keyboard player Michael "Ibo" Cooper and guitarist (and cellist) Stephen "Cat" Coore, who had originally played in The Alley Cats then Inner Circle, subsequently left to form their own band. The original drummer, Cornel Marshall, arrived via one of Jamaica's most renowned groups of the 1960s, Tomorrow's Children. The line-up for their first album as Third World also included a singer named "Prilly" and percussionist Irving "Carrot" Jarrett. The album included a cover of "Satta Massagana", originally performed by The Abyssinians, which became a local hit.
Their second album, 96 Degrees in the Shade (1977), had several local hits and featured the band's classic lineup. "Prilly" was replaced by the distinctive vocalist "Bunny Rugs" Clarke and an all-new rhythm section: Ritchie Daley on bass and former Inner Circle drummer Willie Stewart. Notable among its eight tracks were "1865 (96° in the Shade)", "Rhythm of Life" and the album's only cover, "Dreamland", as originally recorded by Bunny Wailer.
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", a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic in 1978. This song brought them to the attention of Stevie Wonder, who worked with them and wrote, along with Melody A McCully, their hit "Try Jah Love". They were also guests during the third season of SCTV.
Amid claims of artistic differences "Carrot" split from the band in the mid-1980s. The resulting five-piece band then went on to record more commercial tunes such as "Sense of Purpose", "Reggae Ambassador", "Forbidden Love" and "Committed"
Despite several more line-up changes, including the departures of Cooper and Stewart, and a decline in mainstream success, the band are still recording and performing up to the present day, including in front of a television audience at the Cricket World Cup 2007 Opening Ceremony in Kingston.