Marvin with an ‘a’

Dave Woodhall talks to reggae legend Junior Marvin.

Junior Marvin is one of the best-known figures in the world of reggae music. After a career which began playing with blues mainstay T-Bone Walker and then Ike & Tina Turner, he straddled many styles with success, culminating in having to choose between working with Steve Wonder and joining Bob Marley’s backing band the Wailers. He chose the latter, appearing first on Marley’s global smash Exodus and then on all his albums prior to the Jamaican icon’s untimely death in 1981.

Since then, Junior has worked extensively with the Wailers, recording four albums and performing their iconic music live. The Wailers featuring Junior Marvin are touring the UK with their show Legend, plugging the album which sold over thirty million copies worldwide. They play the Copepr Rooms, Coventry on Saturday June 3rd and we spoke to Junior about his work.

You’re still playing the music of Bob Marley – and never was the word ‘legend’ more appropriate. If he were around now, what would he be doing? Would he still be a musician, or would he have moved into politics or another field?
“Bob Marley would definitely be writing songs, recording albums, touring, playing soccer and being of service to mankind and everyone under the banner of Rastafari and One Love.”

Yet, and this is no criticism, I can remember a year or so before his death being told that he was a sell out because he had watered his music down for white audiences. Was this a fair comment?
“Bob saw people as one and as children of God. The music and unconditional love he had was for everyone; black, white, yellow, red et cetera et cetera.”

I don’t know the answer to this because my ignorance of America is far too great, but is reggae still a big influence over there?
“Reggae is very big in America, as it is around whe world.”

When I toured round Mississippi and Tennessee last year I got the impression that blues is thought of as old peoples music and is being forgotten. Is that true, or was I just unlucky?
“It’s still growing and the vibrations are very positive.”

Over here, though, reggae has a long and fine tradition of being the music that brings cultures together. What’s your opinion of British audiences?
“I grew up in the UK. The UK was first to support reggae music. Big up the UK One Love.”

You’ve played with many bands and in many styles of music. Is there anyone left who you’d like to work with?
“I would like to work with and on myself now.”

Do you ever regret not taking the gig with Stevie Wonder?
“I think about Stevie Wonder quite a lot but no regrets. There is still a big chance that I will get to work with him sometime soon. I’m wishing for Stevie to play on my upcoming album titled Happy Family, which is due out this Fall, 2017.”

Finally, and you must have been asked this one many times, but how often do you get asked about Police & Thieves?
“One million and still counting. R.I.P. Junior Murvin my good friend.

I give thanks for this interview and I’m excited and looking forward to all my shows in the UK. One Love.”

Tickets for the Copper Rooms show, price £20, are available from the venue.