Sunday 10 December 2023

Loving Each Other Is The Ting To Do

Celebrating Benjamin Zephaniah, 15th April 1958 to 6th December 2023.
This came as a real shock. Diagnosed with a brain tumour eight weeks previously and gone far, far too soon. Born Benjamin Obadiah Iqbal Springer in Birmingham, of Barbadian and Jamaican heritage, he first performed poetry at age 11 and adopted the name Zephaniah soon after.

I've written previously that it was an inspirational English teacher at secondary school, who burst our predominantly white working- & middle-class suburban bubble by incorporating the poetry of Benjamin Zephaniah and Linton Kwesi Johnson into our studies, a life changing moment for me.
Here then is a selection of Benjamin's words set to music across several EPs and albums spanning the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Sixty five minutes of dub poetry, a minute for each year of Benjamin Zephaniah's life.

Sonically, it's a roll call of talent. 1983's debut album Rasta featured The Wailers performing for the first time since Bob Marley's death. Producers have included Mad Professor, The Sea aka Corin Pennington, Paul 'Groucho' Smykle and  Trevor Morais. Aside from The Wailers, Benjamin has been accompanied by Talvin Singh, Dennis Bovell, Andy Sheppard, The Hazardous Dub Company and Howard Jones (yes, the very same).

Rest in poetry, Benjamin, rest in peace, Zephaniah, rest in power.

1) Things We Say (2005)
2) In Times Like These (1996)
3) President (2017)
4) Progress (1990)
5) Sadhu: David Lowe's Dreamcatcher ft. Benjamin Zephaniah (2006)
6) Free South Afrika (Illegal) (1983)
7) Everybody Hav A Gun (1990)
8) Luv Warrior (1996)
9) Earth Liberation Sound (2017)
10) History (1990)
11) Roots And Culture (1996)
12) I Don't Like (1982)
13) I Love Me Mudder (1983)
14) Cool Down (2017)
15) Self Defense (1995)
16) Our Fathers (2005)
17) "what is a poem?" (2018) 

1982: Dub Ranting EP: 12
1983: Rasta: 6
1989: Rasta (bonus tracks) (Switzerland): 13
1990: Us An Dem: 4, 7, 10
1995: Back To Roots: 15
1996: Belly Of The Beast: 2, 8, 11
2005: Naked: 1, 16
2006: What...Is In Between?: 5
2017: Revolutionary Minds: 3, 9, 14
2018: John Robb In Conversation With Benjamin Zephaniah: 17
Loving Each Other Is The Ting To Do (1:05:13) (KF) (Mega)

You can find From Fantasy To Reality, my 2021 Dubhed selection featuring Benjamin Zephaniah and Linton Kwesi Johnson, right here.

In 1995, Tim Simenon released Clear, his third album as Bomb The Bass and arguably his finest work to date. The record ends with Empire, featuring Benjamin Zephaniah and Sinéad O'Connor, another incredible creative talent sadly lost too young this year.

Search You Tube and you'll find plenty of Benjamin Zephaniah performances. Money sees Benjamin walking and talking through Newcastle in 1991, very much a snapshot of the time but unfortunately resonating just as much in 2023.
There's also a wealth of interviews available online. If you have an hour to spare, then I'd heartily recommend John Robb in conversation with Benjamin Zephaniah from 2018. It's a joy.


I Love Me Mudder (1982) 
I love me mudder and me mudder love me
we come so far from over de sea
we heard dat de streets were paved with gold
sometime it hot sometime it cold,
 I love me mudder and me mudder love me
 we try fe live in harmony
 well, you may call her Valerie
 but to me she is my mummy.
 She shouts at me daddy so loud some time
she don't smoke weed and she don't drink wine
 she always does the best she can
 she works so hard down inna England,
 She's always singing some kind of song
 she have big muscles an she very very strong.
 she likes pussy cats an she love cashew nuts
 she don't bother with no ifs and buts.
 I love me mudder and me mudder love me
we come so far from over de sea
 we heard dat de streets were paved with gold
 sometime it hot sometime it cold,
 I love her and she love me too
 and dis is a love I know is true
 my friends, I'm talking to you
 me and me mudder, we love you too

Note: these are the words in the recorded in the version featured in this selection. The final verse of the original poem - and inspiration for today's post title - are

I love her and she love me too
 and dis is a love I know is true
 my family unit extends to you
 loving each other is the ting to do


  1. Sad loss, excellent tribute. Thanks.

    1. Thanks, Ernie, it was a truly rubbish week for losing two of the greatest writers of any generation, in Shane MacGowan and Benjamin Zephaniah.

  2. Thank you so much for this selection & wonderful write-up. Benjamin will be deeply missed but his words will live onward.

    1. Thanks NØ, as you say, Benjamin will be deeply missed but I'm grateful that he produced such a vast body of work - poems, novels and music - to come back to. And of course he was brilliant in Peaky Blinders, too.

  3. Another huge loss. I was only listening to some of his stuff a day or two before his death was announced. A friend of mine remarked that, "anyone who knew the alternative 80s and 90s scenes, or was involved in English teaching, had a positive view on him", so it was interesting to read how your own English teacher made you aware of his work.

    1. Thanks, Rol. Yes, a bit of a cliche, but you never forget those inspiring teachers (unfortunately, you don't tend to forget the really shite ones either, but that's another story). I'm pretty sure that, apart from being something that resonated with her, Benjamin and Linton were introduced as a contrast to the more typical study of Chaucer. Zephaniah and LKJ's words and music are never far from me, Geoffrey the polar opposite it has to be said.