As we quickly approach our “millenial” – the 1000th post to the blog, I felt it was necessary to recognize a man who, at least to me, is only surpassed by Bob Marley in terms of his staure, reputation, talent, and overall musicality. Sure, Gregory Isaacs is the people’s choice for runner-up to the throne, as he is beloved throughout his native Jamaica among almost everyone. And Gregory was as prolific as they come, however, let’s face it, there were several albums (perhaps more) that should have stayed on the studio reels. That is no disrespect to this man, a man who has had a profound impact on my sensibilities and taste in reggae music. But Dennis was just IT. There are very few who were born to do this reggae thing. “Many are called,yet few are chosen.” Lee Perry, Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Hugh Mundell…there are so very few who were born to deliver Jah message through this medium. Even with Marley, an argument can be made that he was not born to do this. Let’s remember how hard Bob, Peter, Bunny had to work, giving their own blood, sweat, and tears, and toiling in the gutter for more than a decade to hone those talents that each is now revered for. Dennis just had it. Damian Marley once said in an interview that Dennis was the first singer to come along and make it OK to smile while singing reggae – that you could even hear him smile when he sings. I’ve never heard a bad word said about Dennis Brown as a singer or as a man. He had his failings, as we all do. Those demons would eventually overpower his spirit, and like so many before and since, he was gone too soon. But oh what a catalogue of rightousness he left us!
I’ll be the first to admit that he has saved my soul on more than one occasion. Just have a listen to my favorite Dennis Brown song, and the opener to the ‘Visions’ album “Deliverance Will Come” and you will hear why (and turn this one up real loud!):
His talent was so inexplicable. Freddie McGregor said in an interview that he had been working at this music thing for several years and could not seem to get a break. Dennis on the other hand, he said, was a hitmaker the day he stepped into Studio One. Check this cover of a terribly difficult song to sing, Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman,” which Dennis recorded at 14 years of age:
That one breaks me every time.
I had the honor and privelege of seeing him perform live only once – at Reggae Sunsplash 1991. As he took the stage to “Here I Come,” his energy on stage and boundless joy for life is something I will never forget. Take a look:
If you look to the sidebar you will see that I replaced the MIDNIGHT RAVER Dreada Dub Mixes with the 2-volume mix of my favorite Dennis Brown tunes. I worked painstakingly on those mixes to get them just right. Nothing but pure truth and righteousness in those mixes. The crazy thing is there is enough truly great material in his catalog to do 2 more volumes!
Here is Brown’s legendary performance at Montreaux 1979. He opens with “So Jah Say,” and just kills it:
So today as we kick off this momentous event in the 2+ year history of this blog, I felt a need to make note of Dennis Brown – the true “Crown Prince of Reggae.”
mint article 🙂 1 love
Can’t argue with this post Dennis Brown is undoubtedly a living legend! Interested you say that Gregory Isaacs would be the people’s choice of runner up, do you think that he is a bigger figure in Jamaica than people such as Horace Andy, Peter Tosh or Lee Perry? Very interesting post
There is no doubt. I’ve been told by several very credible people in the business that Gregory is second only to Marley. I’ve also been told that Gregory was a genius in the truest sense of the word. Not a musical genius. A genius. As you probably know, he was also a terrible addict who never reached his full potential.
That’s very interesting. despite obviously appreciating his music I never realised the extent to which his music was valued within the business. Thanks for the info and for a great article!
*correction did not mean to post ‘living’ as of course Dennis Brown is unfortunately no longer with us