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Issue 1101

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Police & Thieves Reggae Star Junior Murvin R.I.P.

Junior Murvin RIP
Junior Murvin RIP Junior Murvin RIP Junior Murvin Police & Thieves

Legendary reggae singer Junior Murvin - best known for the single 'Police and Thieves' – has died at the age of 64, although some news reports of his death give his age as 67. He was born in 1949.

His son, Keith Smith, said Murvin was admitted to hospital on Thursday 28th November for diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) treatment. He died in hospital in Port Antonio Hospital in Portland, Jamaica early on Monday (2nd Dec). The cause of death is not known at this time.

Murvin Junior Smith, known as Junior Murvin, began singing as a child, influenced by Curtis Mayfield. He studied mechanics at Montego Bay Technical High School, and then moved to Trenchtown in Kingston, where he lived with his aunt. At that time, he auditioned for Lee Perry and Coxsone Dodd, without success.
He recorded under the name Junior Soul for Sonia Pottinger's Gayfeet label, and began recording regularly for the Crystal label owned by Derrick Harriott, where he had a minor hit with "Solomon" in 1972. He also performed as a member of the Hippy Boys, and later the Mighty Falcons and the Tornadoes, in Kingston's nightclubs and tourist hotels.

In 1976, he auditioned for a second time for Lee “Scratch” Perry with his own song, "Police and Thieves". Perry agreed to record him, and the single was released to international commercial success. Written about Jamaica's turf wars and police violence, it became associated with the rioting at London's Notting Hill Carnival that year.

He achieved global fame as the falsetto singer of 'Police and Thieves' in 1976. A big hit in Jamaica and then in the UK, where it found an audience of punks and skinheads. The Clash were huge fans and covered the song on their 1977 debut album. The album 'Police and Thieves' on Island Records was Murvin's debut album, on which he was backed by The Upsetters and many hail it as the best thing Perry ever produced. His last studio album, 'World Cry', was released in 1995. The single “Wise Man", was released on the London-based Dubwise record label in 1998.

Murvin continued to record singles with Perry after "Police & Thieves,", including several versions of Curtis Mayfield songs, and he also worked with producers Joe Gibbs and Alvin Ranglin. In 1980, Murvin's "Police and Thieves" reached number 23 in the UK singles chart, after it was used in the film Rockers. He recorded with various producers and musicians, including Joe Gibbs, Errol Thompson, Mikey Dread with whom he recorded the 1982 album Bad Man Posse, Henry "Junjo" Lawes, Prince Jammy, and King Tubby. The legendary singer sang with one of Jamaica’s leading bands in the 1990’s, 'Jah Postles', and they toured extensively throughout Europe.

He had several solo hits in Jamaica including 'Miss Kushie', 'Cool out Son', 'I'm In Love', 'Bad Man Posse' and 'Muggers in the Street'.

He was booked to appear at The Jazz Café in April (17th) next year, for the opening night of the London International Ska Festival, to perform his entire Police & Thieves album. He was here in July 2011, when he stormed the Hootananny in Brixton with the UK’s 007 band backing him. Top session guitarist Stan Samuel, (ex Laurel Aitken's band/Desmond Dekker/Mark Morrison and now with UK ska stars The Pressure Tenants) based in Leicester, was sad to hear of Junior's death: “R.I.P. Junior Murvin. It was an honour to play with you.”

The Charlatans singer Tim Burgess was a fan, and he paid his tribute this week, via Twitter, linking to Junior’s song “Cool Out Son.” He said: “Sad to hear of the death of Junior Murvin... like lots of kids I was introduced to him through The Clash in 1977". Murvin's song "Cool Out Son" was featured on the soundtrack for the video game, Skate 3, which was released in 2010.

After his global success, in the later years he continued to record and release singles locally in Jamaica, some of them for his own small “Murvin” label in Port Antonio. The cause of his death will be determined at an inquest. He is survived by five children and eight grandchildren.

Junior Murvin's Albums:
• Police and Thieves (Island) (1977)
• Tedious (Mango) (1978)
• Bad Man Posse (Dread At The Controls) (1982)
• Muggers in the Street (Greensleeves) (1984)
• Apartheid (Jammys) (1986)
• Signs and Wonders (Live & Love) (1989)
• World Cry (Sunvibes) (1995)

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