A gentle and spiritual man

Junior MurvinReggae legend Junior Murvin has passed away at the age of 67.

Everyone knows Junior Murvin for his timeless record "Police And Thieves", but his career goes far beyond that famous tune.

Born in Montego Bay in 1946, Junior moved to Kingston as a youth and – like so many others – felt himself drawn to the music scene. He became friendly with Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe, and Alton Ellis, all of whom encouraged Junior to record. Due to his love of American soul (he credits Sam Cooke and Brook Benton as influences), he soon earned the nickname "Junior Soul" and using that name, he cut his first record, "Miss Kushie", for Sonia Pottinger in 1966.

In the early 1970s, Junior recorded a handful of tunes for Derrick Harriott, including the original versions of "Solomon" and "Rescue The Children". While he was recording, Junior also performed live with several bands, including some time in the Hippy Boys, whose ranks included not only the Barrett brothers but another future Black Ark luminary, Max Romeo.

After several years of performing live and recording sporadically, Junior had an idea for a song but knew it needed a producer with special qualities. And so it was that Junior sought out Lee Perry, who had the "heavy hardcore" sound that Junior was looking for. The song, of course, was "Police And Thieves".

"Police And Thieves" is a timeless piece of reggae: whether its political violence on the streets of Kingston or protesters smashing up McDonalds on the streets of Seattle, Murvin's epic tune is just as crucial now as it was in 1976. Almost 40 years later, "Police And Thieves" is still the theme song to a wide variety of world unrest as well as the continuing violence that plagues Jamaica.

Police And Thieves is more or less a psychedelic blues album.

An epic album of the same name soon followed, filled with the trademark Black Ark sound. Police And Thieves was the most successful of Island's Black Ark albums, not only because of the strong material and Scratch's distinctive production, but because it really captured the mood of the time in both Jamaica and England. Police And Thieves is more or less a psychedelic blues album: Scratch's smoky sound swirls around Junior's staggering falsetto as he warns off bad women, dismisses hoodlums, and laments a life working in the hot sun.

Junior also recorded some incredible singles with Lee Perry, including two more songs on the "Police And Thieves" rhythm, "Bad Weed" and "Philistines On The Land", both notable for their deep, Biblical imagery. Perhaps the most mind-bending is the hypnotic "Cross Over", where Junior sounds like an Old Testament prophet delivering a dread sermon in the shimmering heat of the desert. A stillborn second album with Lee Perry was recorded, but other than a few songs such as "Childhood Sweetheart" and "Let's Fall In Love", the material remains a mystery.

After the international success of Police And Thieves, Junior Murvin was in demand and went on to record with the Mighty Two – Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson – including one of his most popular songs, "Cool Out Son". His next album was the solid Bad Man Possee with Mikey Dread in the producer's chair, followed by Muggers In The Street, recorded for Henry "Junjo" Lawes, and Apartheid for King Jammy. Despite strong material on all albums and several hit singles during this time, Junior simply never returned to the same heights as Police And Thieves.

Junior continued to tour and perform throughout the 1990s and 2000s, recording now and again when it suited him. His last album was the wonderful Inna De Yard, a live acoustic album from 2007 recorded in Jamaica with Earl "Chinna" Smith. Over the years, his amazing falsetto voice never deteriorated, no doubt thanks to Junior's clean lifestyle.

A gentle and spiritual man, Junior Murvin died in hospital on December 2 from complications resulting from diabetes and hypertension. His music lives on.

December 2013