Charlie Sloth

On Air Now 16:00 – 17:45

What happened in 1981

  • Bob Marley died from cancer at the age of 36. Bob was reggae's greatest icon and his death proved a huge loss both to the music industry and his millions of fans worldwide.
  • In the UK, 13 young black people are killed in a fire during a birthday party celebration in Deptford, London. It's suspected that racists deliberately started the blaze - a motive the police quickly dismissed. As a result thousands took part in a series of demonstrations to protest against the police.
  • Tensions between the police and black people grew across the country culminating in riots in Brixton, Toxteth, Birmingham, Preston and Hull. As a result, the season is labelled The Summer of Unrest. A report by Lord Scarmen later concluded that much of the troubles were caused by poverty and racial discrimination.
  • Moira Stuart became the BBC's first black woman newsreader.
  • IBM introduced the first personal computer. E-mu - the first music sampling machine also hits US stores. The video game Pac-Man swept the UK.
  • On 5 June 1981 a medical journal reported a mysterious illness that had killed five young gay men in Los Angeles. It was the first mention of what later became known as Aids.
  • Comedian Richard Pryor won the Grammy for Best Comedy Recording.

In the music

  • MTV debuted on cable TV in the USA and over 79 million viewers tuned in. Music lovers were finally able to watch a channel dedicated to music 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.
  • Janet Jackson joined the cast of Diff'rent Strokes and stayed for a year.
  • Sugar Hill Records released The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel. This groundbreaking record showcased Flash's groundbreaking DJ skills, seamlessly mixing segments of different records together to create a new track.
  • American label Heatbeat Records launched with exclusive rights to the legendary Studio One catalogue. Pioneer Clement Coxsone Dodd, who passed away in 2004, set up Studio One in Jamaica back in 1963 where it became an invaluable training ground for a whole generation of reggae talent including Lee Scratch Perry, Alton Ellis and King Tubby. It became synonymous with the sound of Jamaica.

Key Releases



Grammy awards


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