Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dennis Brown "The Crown Prince"

The third and final 'spotlight' session airing over on Springline Jamaica Radio (SJR) at the moment is on Dennis Brown, yet another another reggae artist who tragically left this world before his time. Tunes featured in this session chosen by the 'Top Girl' Moni include:

Cassandra, Groovin' Out on Life, Girl You Are my Inspiration and the mighty
Money in my Pocket.

Dennis Brown was born in Kingston on February 1st 1957 and is often referred to as “Emmanuel, the Crown Prince of Reggae”, and is indeed cited as being Bob Marley’s favourite singer.
He started out from a young age and packed as much music into his life as he could. In the mid-’60s, he played West Kingston charity balls and banged on beer boxes with Byron Lee’s Dragonaires until the band’s leader made him a full-fledged member. He was but only nine at the time.When still at the tender age of 11, his association with Lee brought him to the attention of the Falcons, who hired him as vocalist. A fortuitous gig at the Tit-for-Tat club caused Studio One impresario Coxsone Dodd to take notice of this confident, silky-voiced kid. Dodd offered to produce him, delivering the Van Dykes’ soul hit “No Man Is An Island” and the subsequent album of the same name.During the 1970s reggae in Jamaica meant voicing social and political injustices, and as Rastafarianism and dub were transforming what had been a music heavily informed by U.S. soul into a cultural force, Brown was in the right place at the right time. During the early part of the 70s he freelanced between studios recording for the likes of Lloyd Dalley, Impact, Aquarius, Joe Gibbs and the legendary Niney the Observer who produced Brown’s 1973 “Westbound Train,” which borrowed from Al Green.
After this Brown’s lyrics became increasingly message-oriented and Niney’s productions were stark, giving extra heft to such tunes as “Africa” and “Tribulation.”
These ‘message’ songs coupled with soul wailing love songs meant that his stage shows were becoming ever more popular as they packed a real punch.
Despite these deep excursions with Niney, the natty dreads and the politics, Brown always considered himself a mainstream artist, and after his massive 1979 hit for producer Joe Gibbs, “Money In My Pocket,” he eventually signed to major label A&M the following year, with an eye to cornering the cross over market after the untimely death of Marley. This joining proved to be unsuccessful. At the same time however he became a co-owner of the DEB record label where he had success as a producer with Junior Delgado and female lovers rock trio 15-16-17.He also moved to London at this time and continued to record and produce. His 1982 album, Love Has Found Its Way, with production assistance from Gibbs, brought him pop success on a level seldom achieved in all of reggae as the title track climbed the U.S. R&B charts. This LP also sadly despite its success marked the end of Gibbs’ prominence as a producer, and his connection with Gibbs terminated. Brown still carried on producing hits with “To The Foundation” with Gussie Clarke and “Revolution” for Taxi records. He also cut tunes for his Yvonne’s Special label (named after his wife) which helped him to come through the early dancehall boom unscathed. Brown though was soon to lose his way with the birth of ‘digital’ music in around 1985 and appeared to be unsure of which way to go next. He eventually settled in to this new form of music and recorded ‘Exit’ for King Jammy in digital stylee before moving in to old friend Gussie Clarkes Music Works Studio. This move gave him more esteem with the younger market and a duet with Gregory Isaacs “Big All Around” was well received. This helped propel Brown to be back in demand in Jamaica he began recording anywhere and everywhere for a few months.
Unfortunately, with stardom came a cocaine problem, something he denied repeatedly to the press. After touring in Brazil in 1999, he complained of chills and fatigue on the plane ride home and within days he was dead. AIDS, pneumonia and all the problems with addiction have all been cited as possibilities; no one is certain, as there was no autopsy. Almost as much of a mystery is his recorded output, which is overwhelming in terms of sheer amount. One hundred albums is a safe estimate, which for a performer who only lived 42 years is some output by any standards.

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