As a younger music lover, I heard a version of Junior Murvin’s “Police and Theives” by The Clash. Reading the liner notes after hearing Strummer’s voice, I immediately went out to search for the original. Unfortunately, being a kid is small town South Jersey I’d have to wait some 15 years or more to get it on vinyl on the Rockers soundtrack. To this day, getting that record will forever be a great digging day. Growing up, there wasn’t exactly a dedicated place you could get vinyl, let alone Reggae on vinyl anywhere near my hometown. Sure you had the mall, or the my local music shop that phased out vinyl after CDs came about (where I was able to grab a copy of Ramsey Lewis The Groover and the UK Soul comp Soul Direction many years later when the building was sold), or this high end audio joint on a nearby barrier island that sold music, but if it wasn’t in the local K Mart, then my ass was out of luck. At about 18, I would hear Junior once again, alongside Frankie Paul, John Holt, Peter Tosh, and a whole bunch of Trojan and Studio One compilations via my college friend Buc, who was a Reggae ambassador. I always admired Murvin, and “Police and Thieves” became a top track that I played whenever I DJed out. Years later, in a derelict, dusty old flea market I dug up a clean copy of “Roots Train”, produced by Scratch on the Black Ark imprint and still search out for Murvin tracks while digging.
The song itself, “Police and Thieves”, written by Murvin and produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry told the story of police brutality and gangs on the streets of Jamaica. Championed by the common man, it was more of a hit in the clubs of England than it was in Jamaica. This anthem has been heard around the world, Murvin’s falsetto voice ringing out a warning to whoever will listen. This track, along with Willie Williams’ “Armageddon Time” has been a huge influence on Flea Market Funk, so the news of the passing of this legend was sad news here at the lab. As unfortunate as it is to lose the man, we still have his music. He left this song for others: “From Genesis to Revelation/ for the next generation will be hear me”, and will forever be etched in the Reggae culture. Rest in Power Junior Murvin, Reggae was made better by your music.
“Police and Thieves” live on Top of the Pops 1980