The Making of an International Hit| The Murder She Wrote Story
Updated: May 27
The story of 'Murder She Wrote' is an impressive tale of the correct lyrics at the right time. It was formulated in a small facility called Megabyte Studio, operated by Sly Dunbar and Jason Lee on the Sonic Sounds building. Megabyte studio was a small studio housed with an Akai MG1214 12 Track Recording Console with Akai's proprietary 1/2 inch tape cassettes.
The song came about in a manner which be described as 'by chance'; Sly was experimenting with new elements to his sound, influenced by Indian bhangra music after touring in the UK. This experimentation resulted in Dunbar, guitarist Lloyd Willis and keyboard player Herbie Harris creating the riddim, which they called 'Santa Barbara'. The compilation of songs they recorded on the riddim was called 'Reggae Bangara' recognising the influence of bhanga music .
Sly invited Chaka Demus to record on the riddim, and he invited Pliers to join the session to record a single together. The two had experienced some success after coming together with their minor hit 'Gal Wine' for producer Ossie Hibbert.
'Murder She Wrote' is the twinning of two songs that were previously released. Plier first recorded the song for Harry J in 1987 as Everton Bonner and re-recorded the song for Black Scorpio and Pioneer Muzik in 1988 as Pliers.
Pliers recorded the same song for a combined seven producers with little success before recording with Chaka Demus . This practice of recording the same song for multiple producers was a common practice among recording artists in Kingston’s music scene, looking for the coveted hit.
Chaka Demus's lyrics comes from and a little-known song he recorded for producer Bobby Digital entitled 'Bad Character' only two years before he and Pliers came together.
But how did this magic come about? Chaka and Pliers were contemplating what to do on the riddim when Chaka suggested they do a part of Plier song 'Murder She Wrote', and Chaka would fit in with the lyrics from his song 'Bad Character' which he thought fit the lyrics of Piler song.
‘I had all of Pliers songs at home and listened to them regularly, so I asked him to do that song; he sang a few until he did 'Murder She Wrote', and I told him that’s the one.’
According to Chaka Demus, ‘Plier also felt that Toots Hibbert 'Bam Bam' could also fit on the riddim but did not know the lyrics verbatim but was encouraged by Sly and team to record the song.
'Murder She Wrote' is one of the biggest hits from the 1990s-fusion sound that Sly Dunbar pioneered along with Robbie Shakespeare and Lloyd' Gitsy' Willis. The song first broke in the United States without label support and enjoyed heavy rotation on several major urban stations in New York and Miami. Eventually, Island Records subsidiary Mango Records signed the duo, which resulted in the song peaking at 27 on the UK singles charts and 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
The song has been sampled/interpolated over 50 times by artists of various genres and territories. They include French Montana (2013’s 'Freaks'), Omarion (2014’s 'Post To Be'), Pitbull (2016’s 'El Taxi'), Daddy Yankee (2019’s 'Que Tire Pa Lante'), Jason Derulo (2019’s 'Too Hot'), IDK (2019’s 'December') and HoodCelebrityy (2020’s 'Run Di Road').