By Howard Campbell—
The Jamaica Observer celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Its entertainment section looks back at some major events the newspaper covered during that period. Today we look at the passing of reggae singer Dennis Brown.
REGGAE has produced many great singers. Dennis Brown, dubbed the Crown Prince of Reggae, is arguably the greatest.
Reggae artist Dennis Brown
When he died on July 1, 1999 at age 42 from respiratory failure, music producer Mikey Bennett said Brown was “the best thing that happened to a reggae song.”
Like Alton Ellis and Delroy Wilson who preceded him and his contemporary, Gregory Isaacs, Brown recorded numerous hit songs that earned him a fanatic following in Jamaica, parts of Europe, the United States and Japan.
He inspired countless singers such as George Nooks, Junior Delgado, Frankie Paul and Richie Stephens. His admirers included Bob Marley, the acknowledged king of reggae. Brown died two months after doing a handful of dates in Brazil. He was accompanied by Lloyd Parks and We The People Band which was his official backing unit for almost 20 years.
Saxophonist Tony Greene was a member of the band at the time. He recalls Brown being in good form on the shows which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Bahia Salvador and Sao Paolo.
He says he heard of his death while in New Orleans.
“I couldn’t believe. After the last show in Sao Paolo, he never looked too good but wi neva tek it dat serious,” said Greene.
Brown was given a state funeral which took place at the National Arena in Kingston. It was attended by Prime Minister P J Patterson and Opposition leader Edward Seaga as well as a number of musicians and artists who paid tribute to him in a lively concert.
Born February 1, 1957, Brown had been recording hit songs since the late 1960s. Lips of Wine, produced by Derrick Harriott, started that remarkable run which continued with hits for producers Clement Dodd (No Man is An Island, If I Follow My Heart), Winston ‘Niney’ Holness (Westbound Train, Cassandra), Joe Gibbs (Love Has Found Its Way, Should I), Sly and Robbie (Revolution, Sitting and Watching) and Willie Lindo (Inseparable, Early in The Morning).
Following the ceremony at the National Arena, Dennis Brown was interred at National Heroes Park, final resting place for National Heroes Marcus Garvey, Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley.