Junior Murvin, Reggae Great, Dies at Home in Jamaica
His timeless hit "Police and Thieves" lives on in film and memory
Reggae great Junior Murvin reportedly died Monday morning at his home in Portland Parish, Jamaica. The falsetto singer born Murvin Junior Smith in 1949 was best known for his 1976 classic “Police and Thieves,” recorded by Lee “Scratch” Perry and famously covered by the Clash on their self-titled debut the following year. He released a handful of notable albums and singles over the years — his last being 1998’s “Wise Man” — often exploring his country’s issues with politics and crime.
According to the Jamaica Gleaner, Smith died peacefully, though had been struggling with an advanced form of diabetes. While he toured Europe extensively, in part playing with his ’90s roots reggae band the Jah Postles, he had lived just about his entire life in the parish capital of Port Antonio, a rural region on the island’s northeastern coast known for its gorgeous beaches, as well as its status as a major exporter of coconuts and bananas. Rihanna filmed “Man Down” nearby.
“Police and Thieves” can be heard not only on the excellent 1977 album of the same name, but in the beloved 1978 Jamaican film Rockers and the soundtracks to Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Dave Grohl also covered it for Reno 911!: Miami under the pseudonym Sprechen Sie Deutsch. Revisit the original along with career highlights “Cool Out Son,” “Closer Together,” and “Think Twice” below.