'Police & Thieves' Reggae Singer Junior Murvin Dies

Junior Murvin

David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Reggae singer Junior Murvin, whose signature song "Police and Thieves" became a hit on the British charts not long after it was covered by punk legends The Clash, died Monday at a hospital in Jamaica. 

The Jamaica Observer is reporting that Murvin -- born Murvin Junior Smith in Port Antonio -- was admitted to a hospital in his hometown last Thursday for treatment related to diabetes and hypertension. The singer's son, Kevin Smith, told the Observer that an autopsy will determine the cause of death.

His age has been listed as either 64 or 67 in various reports.

Murvin worked closely with legendary producer Lee "Scratch" Perry on his debut album, also titled "Police and Thieves," released on Island Records in 1977. The falsetto-voiced title track was released a year earlier as a single and was a hit with Jamaican youth for its pointed lyrics about police brutality and social strife.

Police and thieves in the street, ooh yeah
Fighting the nation with their guns and ammunitions
Police and thieves in the streets, ooh yeah
Scaring the nation with their guns and ammunitions 

From Genesis to Revelation, yeah
The next generation will be, hear me 

All the crimes committed day by day
No one try to stop it, in anyway
All the peacemakers turn war officers
Hear what I say

The song also found favor in Britain and was covered by The Clash on its eponymous debut in 1977. Three years later the song spent nine weeks on the U.K. singles chart, peaking at No. 23. Murvin released several more albums over the years, including 1982's "Bad Man Posse" and 1984's "Muggers in the Street," along with several 7-inch titles on his own Murvin label.

'Police & Thieves'

In a profile published on Reggae-Vibes.com, Murvin credits the endurance of his unique voice to living a simpler life -- meaning more exercise and less smoking, drinking and women.

"Music is a spiritual vibes y'know not a thing to boast over - a talent from God y'understand," he said. "I tried to avoid the whole heap of tours, it's not good for your voice too. Much tour really wear you out. Singing is a thing you've got to be disciplined and if you sing in a high pitch you have to be more, you have to discipline your body more."

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