Smiley Culture performs "Police Officer" on BBC's Top Of The Pops, 1985
Word is trickling in from British music media and news outlets that acclaimed UK 80's reggae star Smiley Culture's life came to a tragic end earlier today (Weds, March 15th) from fatal stab wounds. The 47 year old reggae DJ/MC born David Emmanuel, who is known by many reggae fans for his 1985 UK top 40 hit "Police Officer" (a song that ridiculed British police's treatment of blacks), died of stab wounds this morning after police officers raided his home in Warlingham, Surrey at 7am as part of a planned arrest. The artist was due to face trial after being charged with conspiracy to supply cocaine in September last along with four other individuals.
According to UK news sources a spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed they were now investigating a "death following police contact." These initial news reports also said that it was believed that the artist took his own life by stabbing himself shortly after officers gained access to his home. However the fact that it was several stab wounds has caused many to suspect foul play on behalf of the police officers at the scene. Hence the IPCC UK police watchdog group has launched an inquiry into the musician's suspicious death. "We will be looking into the planning of the arrest, the way in which it was carried out and the actions of all the officers who were present at the time of the incident," said IPCC Commissoner Mike Franklin in a prepared statement this afternoon.
In addition to "Police Officer," Smiley Culture, once a major UK reggae star on a scale alongside the likes of such other crossover acts as Maxi Priest, scored chart and reggae chart hits with tracks including "Nuclear Weapon," "Slam Bam," and his 1984 debut single, "Cockney Translation." Born and raised in South London, he first rose to fame as a DJ with the Saxon Studio sound system. His independent hits led to signing with a major (Polydor) but, after he failed to deliver further chart hits, he got dropped by the record label. In all, Smiley Culture, a prime example of that first wave of homegrown British reggae talent, recorded and released eight singles between 1984 and 1990 and two albums The Original Smiley Culture (Top Notch) and Tongue In Cheek (Polydor) -- both 1986 releases.
In an interview with Smiley Culture in the UK Guardian last September, the 80's reggae star recalled, "My hit single 'Police Officer' was a true story – the police used to take my weed. It was better than being arrested, and I made that into a hit. With 'Cockney Translation' I was a black man talking cockney. I integrated cultures even though I didn't understand it at the time. I was invited to meet the Queen, who said she listened to my records in the palace. Although I paved the way for people like The Streets and Dizzee Rascal, I left the music business because I wasn't rich."
According to that same interview, he had, in more recent years, ventured into diamond trading which proved to be a much more lucrative career than music but not without some of the same problems, he said. "Recently, I bought an expensive car in cash, which resulted in a visit by the police. It was like 'Police Officer' all over again."
Smiley Culture "Cockney Translation" (1984)