Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Reggaeobit: Junior Murvin

Junior Murvin, the reggae singer whose Police And Thieves, about Jamaican turf wars, became a soundtrack when the policing at the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival led to a riot, has died.

Murvin's first attempt at music didn't quite work out - a rastaman called Mr Sunny advised him to attend an audition, but his mother, unimpressed by the enthusiasm of Derrick Morgan, Roland Alphonso and Desmond Dekker, called him back home. Luckily, opportunity knocked again, and Murvin started back-up singing - first for Sonia Pottinger, and then for Derrick Harriot.

A return to his birthplace saw him join the band Young Experience, but their lack of a van scuppered them. Three weeks after the split, though, Murvin wrote Police And Thieves - an impressed Lee Perry played the track to an even more impressed Chris Blackwell; a release on Island later, and Murvin had an international hit.

Talking to UnitedReggae last year, Murvin talked about Police And Thieves being covered by The Clash:

I wouldn't even say Police and Thieves is a song. I would say it has moved from a song to a proverb. A proverb is greater than a song, I would put it that way. Music doesn't carry a grievance to nobody. It's just in the lyrical content. Music only talks to you when you play it. Music can't say "hey no play me"". Music can't do that! So as long as the man them sing the conscious things we can uplift the nation with it. But if you deal with violence, violent and downgrading lyrics that call the woman "Gyal" and that sort of thing there "Gyal yuh underwear" and "siddung pon it" I have no business with it.
Murvin was 64. He died from complications from diabetes on Monday 2nd December.

His UnitedReggae interview ended on what sounds a bit like a epitaph:
Tell my fans I wish the best for them and love them and I will always sing until my eyes are closed.