From stealing his brother’s socks as a kid to becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Eddie Murphy says his life today ‘is just perfect’
By Davina Hamilton
ONCE YOU'VE played the Prince of Zamunda; donned a fat suit to portray multiple characters in one film; and provided the voice of an animated donkey, what do you do next?
Ah yes – you make reggae music. That’s the level of creative freedom Eddie Murphy enjoys.
The celebrated actor and comedian, whose career has spanned over three decades, recently made waves with the release of his single Oh Jah Jah; a roots reggae offering which sees Murphy singing about “leaving Babylon and going back to Zion”.
A self-confessed lover of “good music” both as a creator and a fan, Murphy, who sings and plays the guitar, began our chat by offering a listening recommendation.
“Your name is Davina? Have you heard that song O Divina by Terence Trent D’arby?”
“No,” I confess.
“You’ve never heard it? You gotta listen to it! I think he [Trent D’Arby] goes by the name Sananda Francesco Maitreya now. But yeah, it’s a great song.”
Murphy’s passion for music is evident – but also not surprising, considering he’s written and recorded songs for as long as he’s made movies.
His first single Party All the Time was released back in 1985 and though he “stopped putting music out in the ‘80s,” he reveals that he “never stopped recording or writing. I make music in my spare time just because I love to do it.
"Music is such a big part of who I am, I just wasn’t trying to make a living from it. It’s such a big creative canvass to work from.”
His decision to release music once again has proved fruitful. Oh Jah Jah earned a legion of fans, sending the single to the top of the iTunes Reggae Top 100 chart.
The song marks Murphy’s second reggae release, following his 2013 single Red Light, a collaboration with rapper Snoop Lion. But unlike Snoop, who famously embraced Rastafarian culture in 2013, Murphy’s affiliation with reggae is strictly about the music.
“Oh no, I’m not a Rasta,” the 53-year-old declares. “I just love reggae music. My favourite [Jamaican musician] right now is Chronixx. I also like Beenie Man and I like old stuff too. I like Garnett Silk and of course, I love Bob Marley.”
Was Murphy nervous about how his new music would be received?
“No, I wasn’t nervous, but I don’t take anything for granted. I like the song and usually if I like something or I think something’s funny, the audience does too. I’ve never had something that I liked that the people didn’t like. I never had that.”
But in reverse, Murphy admits there were projects that he didn’t like that also weren’t well received by the public.
“Oh, I had a lot of things,” he laughs. “I’ve been making movies for almost 35 years so I’ve had a lot of things that haven’t worked. But when you’re doing something that sucks, you don’t know it sucks at the time!
“Making a movie is a collaborative effort and nobody sets out to make a bad movie. You might get about halfway through it and realise it sucks! But that’s often because a bunch of things just didn’t work out.”
One of Hollywood’s most successful stars, Murphy has created a host of unforgettable film characters in his 30-year career. From the streetwise police detective Axel Foley in the Beverly Hills Cop franchise to the African prince Akeem Joffer in Coming to America; the entire Klump family in The Nutty Professor and the hyperactive Donkey in Shrek, Murphy’s character list is enviable.
Reflecting on his career, he says he’s learned from every experience.
“I don’t have anything that I regret. I’ve had movies that worked and movies that didn’t work, but all of them are a learning process and I’m blessed that I’ve been able to make a living as an actor for the past 30 years.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1961, Murphy has certainly come a long way since his humble beginnings – which featured a fair few sibling spats.
In an interview with The Voice in 2012, Murphy’s older brother, fellow comedian Charlie Murphy, recalled the pair’s early days, saying: “When we were growing up, we had sibling rivalry over who was getting new shoes and who wasn’t, or who was the favourite with our parents at the time!”
Murphy confirms that he did have fall-outs with his big brother – and he insists he was the victim.
“Oh yeah, Charlie used to beat me up all the time,” Murphy laughs. “He beat me up at the park one time because I had his socks on. He had his part-time job so he was able to get cool socks and sneakers, and in the black community, cool sneakers and socks – that was cool stuff to have!
“He had these really cool red, black and green socks so I decided to put them on. He came over and was like, ‘You got my socks on!’ All these people were in the park watching, and I had to take the socks off and put my feet in the hot sneakers!”
Now one of Hollywood’s rich and famous, Murphy can afford to buy his own socks and sneakers. But with that fame comes media interest and the star has earned plenty of that for both his professional and personal life – perhaps most notably, his controversial relationship with former Spice Girl Melanie Brown.
The pair began dating in 2006 and when Brown became pregnant, Murphy famously questioned whether the baby was his, telling a reporter: "I don't know whose child that is until it comes out and has a blood test."
When Brown gave birth to Angel Iris in 2007, a DNA test proved that Murphy was the child’s father and in time, he begun getting to know his youngest daughter.
Speaking of his relationship with Brown, Murphy said in a recent interview: "It's all good. We got a little one, it's all good.”
And despite his Hollywood fame, the father-of-eight insists he has a normal relationship with all his children.
“I don’t know if my kids even think about [my success],” he says. “I’m just daddy to my kids. The movies – that’s just what daddy does for a living. They’re aware of the movies that I do, but I really just have a daddy-child relationship with my children.”
Now in a relationship with Australian model Paige Butcher, would Murphy consider having any more children?
“I’m open to every blessing that life can serve up,” he says.
For now though, Murphy says his life is just fine as it is. Asked where he’d like to be in the next 30 years, he says:
“I wanna keep it just like it is for the next 30 years. Everything is just perfect. 30 years from now, I’ll be in my 80s and I’d be happy for everything to be just like it is.”
Originally posted on The Voice website in February 2015