It’s a sad day for fans of lavish romance movies, speculative science fiction, wacky dub reggae and frozen fish fingers. For in a bumper day for Death Pool players, March 18th has seen four celebrities—of admittedly varying levels of fame and attainment—pop their clogs.* The lives and deaths of Anthony Minghella and Arthur C Clarke will be widely discussed in the days to come, but spare a thought also for Mikey Campbell, aka Mikey Dread, a Jamaican broadcaster and singer who made his name on the radio show Dread at the Controls on the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation. Before appointing Campbell in 1977, JBC had, astonishingly, shown no interest in reggae, the Jamaican music that was taking the world by storm. Campbell was best known for his zany radio shows, which incorporated a range of sound effects and special guests and, er, unorthodox broadcasting techniques, but I first encountered him on an obscure reggae compilation that featured his tune “Barber Saloon”—an amusing tale relating Campbell’s indignation at spotting a “natty dread” getting his locks shaven in a barbershop. Fans of expansive, experimental dub and roots reggae could do worse than get hold of The Prime of Mikey Dread: Massive Dub Cuts 1978-1992, which still stands up well today. Spare a thought also for John Hewer, the actor best known for playing Captain Birds Eye in the television commercials for over 30 years, who has died at the age of 86.
* Campbell and Hewer technically both died over the weekend, but I heard about their deaths today—and surely that’ll do for a blog post.