Thirty-three years later, and the comic/actor/singer is once again trying out his reggae pipes, this time on Oh Jah Jah. The song will be released January 27 by VPAL, a subsidiary of VP Records.
Murphy, 54, spoke to the Sunday Observer on Friday. He said Oh Jah Jah was inspired by events that made international headlines last year, such as controversial police shootings in the United States, and the Ebola epidemic that emanated from west Africa.
“I started writing the track about the time those things were going down. I just think the lyric lent itself to reggae because the topics are so serious,” he said.
This is not Murphy’s first reggae song. In 1993, he did I Was a King with deejay Shabba Ranks; two years ago, he teamed with rapper Snoop Lion on Red Light.
He came to Jamaica 20 years ago to film the video for I Was a King in Portland.
Though Murphy made his name on the weekly television sketch show Saturday Night Live, and movies such as 48 Hrs, Coming to America, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop and The Nutty Professor, he has some music chops.
In 1985, he teamed with Rick James for his first album, How Could it Be, which yielded the hit song, Party All The Time.
That album sold gold (500,000 copies) but Murphy chose not to record a follow-up.
“That was a time when it was like every actor wanted to put out an album and I didn’t want to be seen like that,” he explained. “For me, music is like a passion. I write different types of music. I’ve got hours and hours of music that have not been released.”
Born in New York, Murphy was exposed to different sounds in the 1970s. He recalls listening to The Beatles (his favourite act), Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone and Bob Marley on WBLS radio station.
Some of the skits that made him famous on Saturday Night Live were humorous, spot-on impersonations of Wonder and soul legend James Brown.
Murphy stressed that he has always been serious about music. Songs like Oh Jah Jah are not commercial ventures.
“I’m not trying to make money off it, nothing like that. I might do an album this year but we’ll see what the reaction is like to this song,” he said.