If there is one thing that us British get off on more than most things it’s a good old fashioned criminal; the old bill and the tabloid newspapers all make up the fabric of the Catch Me If You Can stories of the early 20th Century. Charlie Richardson, The Kray Twins, Frank Abagnale Jr, Danny Dyer in The Business - the list goes on.
December 18th saw the curtain come down on one of Britain’s most infamous, Ronnie Biggs one of the last living assets associated with The Great Train Robbery of 1963. After spending decades on the run doing stints in Australia before a lengthy stay in Brazil, in the end it was ill-health that was the determining factor in bringing Biggs back to the UK.
The robbery itself inspired songs, films, dramas and documentaries. So in that light to supplement the obituaries and memoirs that will grace the nation’s media this week here is Ronnie Biggs’s life in music:
Black Uhuru – Great Train Robbery
An obvious starting point although the song was written about an early robbery and does not directly associate to Biggs the sentiment is still there. The Uhuru in Black Uhuru actually means freedom in Swahili which he later found after escaping from HMP Wandsworth in 1965.
The Marvelettes – Mr Postman
The 1961 Motown hit has been sampled countless times. As the robbery took place on a Royal Mail freight from Glasgow to Euston, I think it’s fair to say the post may have dried up a little bit the next morning.
Nina Simone – Sinnerman
Ronnie managed to escape the British penal system with a rope where two getaway cars were waiting for him much to Her Majesty’s despair, the next stop on the Biggs merry-go ride would be Paris.
Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot - Bonnie And Clyde
In Paris, the grande thief shelled out thousands upon thousands on plastic surgery to change his appearance, apparently not going to plan. The South Londoner got a new face as well as a new name and made haste for Australia joined by his wife Charmain.
Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66’ – Mas Que Nada
After the Australian press caught wind of the Great Robbery story, Biggs’s cover was blown, it was from there he made his way to Brazil where he would remain living the costa del luxury he would until his return to the UK in 2001.
The Clash – I Fought The Law
Declining health was the main factor that brought Biggs back to Blighty and back to the nick, clad in a t shirt provided by The Sun who ran the campaign to bring him to book, then home secretary Jack Straw declined an appeal to keep him out of prison on compassionate grounds, by this time the law had surely won.