It was with great sadness today that I learned of the death of Junior Murvin just a few hours ago and unfortunately time precludes me from writing as much as I’d like to.
Junior Murvin passed away today at his home in Port Antonio, Jamaica aged just 64. He’ll always be best known for that one very special record but he recorded five other albums between 1977 and 1986, not a giant catalogue for a roots reggae artist but a voice that will never be forgotten. Another sad loss and at an age when one should be enjoying the fruits of their work, interesting to note that he was just a few years older than Joe Strummer would be if he were still with us. Condolences to his family, friends and all who enjoyed his music.
As unlikely as covering (and radically changing) the 1976 Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry produced single Murvin single ‘Police and Thieves’ may have seemed at the time, it’s equally difficult to imagine that debut album by The Clash not breaking away from the 2:20 punk rock blasts to incorporate something as special and different as that cover version. ‘Police and Thieves’ was a key musical moment from the hot summer of ’76 and the decision by the band to take it for their own ends just a short while later speaks volumes about the song. I’d steer anyone in the direction of his debut album on Island Records in 1977.
For many young ears including my own it was also an invitation that we gladly took to explore the reggae that the band were listening to at the time, especially in the case of Paul Simonon, whilst for others it further cemented the crossover between two forms of protest music. I’d be lying if I said I better explored the work of Junior Murvin along with greats like Peter Tosh until a good while later when I had the cash to expand my record collection but I don’t know how likely that exploration may have even been without The Clash opening that particular door. In fact trying to imagine The Clash without their solid efforts to blend punk with reggae is to imagine a different band entirely.
Junior Murvin ‘Police and Thieves’ – Top of the Pops (BBC)