*Wayne Smith, the reggae vocalist whose 1985 single “Under Mi Sleng Teng” reshaped Jamaican music by popularizing digital production in the genre, died in Kingston Monday at the age of 48, reports Rolling Stone.
Smith was admitted to Kingston Public Hospital Friday after complaining of sudden stomach pains, according to his son, Tidel Smith, who confirmed his father’s passing with the Jamaica Observer.
Smith released his first album, “Youthman Skanking,” for producer Lloyd James’ Prince Jammy’s label in 1982 when he was 17. He wrote the lyrics to “Under Mi Sleng Teng,” an ode to marijuana partly inspired by Barrington Levy’s “Under Mi Sensi,” two years later while he and friend Noel Davey were toying with a Casio MT-40 keyboard. The pair completed the track, which utilized a preset keyboard melody based on Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else,” with the assistance of James, resulting in the first dancehall hit made using strictly digital technology.
*Amiri Baraka, the militant man of letters and tireless agitator whose blues-based, fist-shaking poems, plays and criticism made him a provocative and groundbreaking force in American culture, has died. He was 79.
His booking agent, Celeste Bateman, told the Associated Press that Baraka, who had been hospitalized since last month, died Thursday at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
*Groundbreaking actress Juanita Moore, an Academy Award nominee for her role as Lana Turner’s black friend in the classic film “Imitation of Life,” has died, reports the Associated Press.
Actor Kirk Kelleykahn, her grandson, said that Moore collapsed and died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 99, according to Kelleykahn.
Moore was only the fifth black performer to be nominated for an Oscar, receiving the nod for the Douglas Sirk-directed film that became a big hit and later gained a cult following. The 1959 tearjerker, based on a Fannie Hurst novel and a remake of a 1934 film, tells the story of a struggling white actress’ rise to stardom, her friendship with a black woman and how they team up to raise their daughters as single mothers.
*Don Mitchell, who co-starred in the original “Ironside,” died of natural causes on Dec. 8, the Los Angeles Times reports. He was 70.
Mitchell played Mark Sanger, the ex-con-turned aide to Raymond Burr’s wheelchair-bound Robert T. Ironside on the NBC series, which ran from 1967 to 1975. He later reprised the role in the 1993 reunion TV movie.
Don Mitchell in the cast of Ironside
Mitchell’s other credits include “Scream Blacula Scream” opposite Pam Grier, “Matlock,” “Capitol” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”
Mitchell is survived by two daughters from his second marriage to actress Judy Pace.
*Reggae singer Junior Murvin, best known for his signature song “Police and Thieves,” died Monday at a hospital in Jamaica, reports Billboard. His age has been listed as either 64 or 67 in various reports.
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.
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.
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.
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.”