Duke Bootee, Co-Writer of the Hip-Hop Hit ‘The Message,’ Dead at 69


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Hip-hop legend Ed Fletcher aka Duke Bootee, co-writer of the 1982 hit “The Message,” died on January 13 of heart failure at his home in Savannah, Ga. He was 69.

According to rollingstone.com, Fletcher served as a member of Sugar Hill Records’ house band. The label released the early work of groups such as the Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

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Fletcher was born on June 6, 1951, in Elizabeth. Ga. After graduating from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania in 1973 with an English degree, he played with local New Jersey bands before working at Sugar Hill. He would go on to write for, produce and mix for artists like Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, P. Diddy, Dr. John and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, per USA Today.

In 1984, Fletcher recorded his solo album as Duke Bootee, “Bust Me Out,” and released the single “Broadway,” the following year under his own label — Beauty and the Beat Records.

After quitting the music industry to spend more time with his family, Fletcher earned master’s degrees from the New School in media studies and in education from Rutgers University. He got into teaching and was hired as a critical thinking and communication instructor at Savannah State University. He retired in 2019.

“He loved his cigars, coffee, jazz and the beauty of his wife’s natural hair,” Fletcher’s former student Chelsea Caldwell said. “He gave us a whole lecture one time about embracing your natural self.”

In a statement, SSU said, “Savannah State University is saddened by the death of Edward Fletcher. He came to Savannah State University as a lecturer on Critical Thinking & Communication educating countless students after career in the music industry. In a 2015 interview for the student newspaper Tiger’s Roar, Professor Fletcher said education is his family’s business naming several members of his family who were educators including his mother and father. We are fortunate our students had an opportunity to hear his message to them. Our hearts go out to his wife Rosita and his entire family.”

Fletcher is survived by his wife, Rosita Ross, his two children and five grandchildren.

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