Dennis Brown is a prolific, well respected and well-loved artiste. With his extremely powerful tenor and distinctive singing voice, Dennis has easily established himself as one of the most impressive reggae artists of the twentieth century.
Brown would have been 56 on February 1, 2013. His birthday celebrations, including a short ceremony put on by his former colleagues as well as songs in tribute, ushered in reggae month in fine style.
Dennis Brown, the Boy Wonder of Jamaican Music
Born Dennis Emanuel Brown on February 1, 1957 in Kingston, Brown’s career took off very early. In fact, Dennis became a child star and received the nickname-“boy wonder of Jamaican music.”
At the tender age of 11, Dennis Brown came to the attention of Coxsone Dodd, then owner of Jamaica’s Studio One. This led to Dennis’ first record, a cover of the doo-wop hit “No Man Is An Island”. The record revealed the pool of untapped, mature talent that Dennis represented, far beyond his years.
Soon, Brown earned a reputation as a versatile talent, capable of performing a variety of different styles. “Brown is blessed with a lithe, crooning tenor that gives him more-than-passing resemblance to Marvin Gaye,” wrote J.D. Considine in Rolling Stone, “something that set many hearts aflutter in the reggae community.”
Emmanuel, the Crown Prince of Reggae
Following the death of reggae king Bob Marley in 1981, a worthy heir was needed for the reggae throne. Prior to his own death, Marley had acknowledged Brown as a personal favourite. Soon, Reggae fans unanimously and undisputedly ordained Brown with a new title, “Emmanuel, the Crown Prince of Reggae”. Many believed and still hold that Dennis Brown is second-to-none in reggae and contend that no one can ever take his place.
Brown as the Family Man
Dennis Brown has been known as a loving and friendly man who cared for his family. Though a touring reggae artiste, Brown was able to find the time to hold a family together even through a long and demanding career.
Brown has left with us a musical legacy – a massive collection of inspirational and uplifting music. He recorded more than 100 records, including over 50 albums, beginning in the early years in his teens. All this, began with the release of No Man Is An Island which became an immediate hit in Jamaica, and led to his first album, of the same title in 1970.
Throughout his career, Brown worked with a number of producers and record labels. His association with producers Winston “Niney” Holness and Joe Gibbs for example, resulted in such albums as Just Dennis’ Wolves and Leopards, Money in My Pocket and Words of Wisdom. Through his association with Holness, Brown achieved a level of international stardom and set the stage for superstardom in the field.
In 1995, Brown’s rendition of “Light My Fire” received a Grammy nomination from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Three years later, he appeared in the movie Heartland Reggae.
Image Credit: http://www.reggaeville.com
Brown’s untimely death occurred after he and several members of his tour group became ill during a visit to Brazil with Gregory Isaacs, Max Romeo, Lloyd Parker, and We the People in May of 1999. While his colleagues fully recovered, Brown was rushed to hospital on his return. He had suffered cardiac arrest. He died on July 1, 1999 in Kingston, Jamaica, of a collapsed lung at the University Hospital. On his death, Billboard Magazine noted, that the world of reggae music lost a “towering talent”
Jamaica afforded Brown one of its highest honours, with burial in the National Heroes Park in Kingston. Posthumously, on March 7, 2000, Hip-O Records released Dennis Brown: The Ultimate Collection as an addition to its compilation series.
By: Norvan Martin