Brian Bassie Atkinson
Dennis Brown (Deceased):
music producer, arranger, songwriter, hit singer, international recording artiste.
The great Jamaican singer Dennis Brown has died in Kingston
at the age of 42. Dennis first entered the recording industry, like so many other
notable Jamaican artists, at Clement Dodd's Studio One in 1970. The first hit was 'No Man
Is An Island', and was also the title of his debut album, which was followed in 1971
by another set, 'If I Follow My Heart'.
Breaking away from Studio 1, he found himself in the capable hands of Derrick Harriott,
who coaxed an extremely mature performance from the teenage singer on the album,
'Super Reggae & Soul Hits'. The popular tracks from the album at the time were
'Changing Times', 'He Can't Spell' and 'Silhouette'.
Following this he entered the most productive part of his career, teaming up with Joe
Gibbs for the original version of his hit 'Money In My Pocket' in 1972, and then
Winston 'Niney' Holness, with whom he recorded some of his greatest works.
For Niney he cut the classic 'Cassandra' and 'Westbound Train' singles in 1974, and
the album that came the following year, 'Just Dennis', confirmed his status in the
business as one of it's most bankable assestts. That album not only featured the
hit singles, but also the inspired 'No More Will I Roam', 'Conqueror' and a reading
of th Gaylads 'Africa'.
Following on from this album, there was a gap of 2 years before the next Niney
produced set, 'Wolves & Leopards'. The wait was certainely worth it. Although all
the tracks were available on single at some time or another, 'Here I Come' and the
title track, are two of the finest tunes Dennis ever produced. Other cuts of note
on the album were 'Children Of Isreal' and 'Created By The Father'.
In 1978, Dennis consolidated his reputation by reuniting with Joe Gibbs for a series
of hit singles and classic albums. The first of these was 'Visions', which featured
'Malcolm X', 'Concrete Castle King' and 'Stay At Home', and this was followed in 1979
by 'Words Of Wisdom' and 'Joseph's Coat Of Many Colours'.
'Words Of Wisdom' contained a re-recording of 'Money In My Pocket' that gave Dennis
his first of three UK chart hits in March '79. This was followed by a version of
Alton Ellis' 'Ain't That Loving You', which although failing to make the national
chart, sold extremely well to Dennis' grass roots following.
Having set up his own Yvonne's Special label, Dennis continued to work with the
cream of Jamaican producers. He enjoyed several hits with the all conquering
Sly & Robbie at the turn of the decade, including 'Sitting & Watching', 'Hold On To
What You've Got' and the awesome 'Revolution', and in 1982 signed an international
deal with A&M Records.
The subsequent album, 'Love Has Found It's Way', led to two more UK chart hits,
(the title track & 'Halfway Up Halfway Down'), and was again produced by Joe Gibbs,
assisted by Willie Lindo. This set was followed up by 'The Prophet Rides Again',
an album which had a decidedly funkier feel, although the title track is a Dennis
Another classic came in 1983, when Dennis took the rhythm track from Aswad's 'Love
Fire' from their 1981 album 'New Chapter', and versioned it into the sublime
'Promised Land'. 1984 heralded the release of the 'Love's Got A Hold On Me' album,
a 6 track affair featuring a recut of 'Let Love In', originally recorded for Phil
Pratt in the early '70's, and there was also a joint showcase album with Gregory
Isaacs ('Judge Not').
In early 1985, Prince Jammy unleashed the pivotal 'Sleng Teng' rhythm on an
unsuspecting public. Dennis' first attempts at the new 'digital' style were
recorded for veteran producer Bunny Lee, who issued 'I'll Get On Without You'
on his cut of the rhythm. Although he seemed to find it hard to adjust to the
modern style, this didn't stop Dennis continuing to enjoy hits.
Later that year he recorded the duet 'Let Off Supm' with Gregory Isaacs, for
producer Gussie Clarke, and also issued 'Revolution Part 2', a follow up to
his earlier classic. Even a reggae update of the classic show tune 'Old Man River'
was a hit, and there was an album for Jammy's, 'Slow Down'.
By September, he was again recording in a combination style, this time with veteran
singer John Holt. Their hit 'Wild Fire' led to an album of the same name, on which
the pair duetted as well as singing solo. Jackie Mittoo produced the hit 'Rebel
With A Cause', a digital cut to Johnny Clarke's 'None Shall Escape Judgement',
but many of Dennis' early computerised recordings were lyrically lightweight.
It seemed that for the first time in his career, the over exposure that so many
Jamaican artists suffer from, was having a belated effect.
Finally, he managed to settle into the digital groove. Jammy's produced the popular
'Exit' album, afterwhich Dennis regained his foothold in the market. He recorded
another hit duet with Gregory Isaacs for Gussie Clarke, 'Big All Round', and the
album 'Unchallenged' followed this. By the early to mid '90's, he was receiving
serious competition from upcoming, younger singers such as Garnett Silk and Luciano,
but no matter what he did, the public always held Dennis close to their hearts.
With Dennis' sudden passing, there is an irreplaceable gap in the music. No one
sounded quite like him, his roots message was acceptable to a far wider audience
than just the reggae market, yet it remained undiluted. He could turn his hands
to all styles, lovers rock, reality themes and even dancehall and still sound
Dennis Brown, the Crown Prince is gone, but he will never be forgotten.