Friday, May 1, 2009

Step It Up Barry Brown

This month sees the anniversary of the passing of one of my favourite singers Barry Brown. He was born in 1962 in Kingston, Jamaica and was one of a number of singers to find success in the 1970s under record producer Bunny Lee. His passionately raw delivery wasn't candy-coated sweet or silky smooth. It was simple, direct, amicable and real.
After forming a short-lived group called The Aliens with Rod Taylor and Johnny Lee, Brown decided to go solo. Although his first release, "Girl You're Always On My Mind", had little impact, his vocal style soon found popularity, with his first hit single coming with 1979's "Step It Up Youthman", which led to an album of the same name on Third World Records. This was followed the following year with the release of the essential roots reggae album, "Cool Pon Your Corner" for Trojan Records.
One of the most successful artists of the early dancehall era, Brown worked with some of Jamaica's top producers of the time, including Linval Thompson, Winston "Niney The Observer" Holness, Sugar Minott and Coxsone Dodd, as well as releasing self-produced material on his Jabba Roots label, and had hits with the conscious lyrical tunes “Politician”, “Jah Jah Say”, “Far East” and “Not So Lucky”. After releasing eleven albums between 1979 and 1984, Brown's releases became more sporadic, although his work continued to feature prominently on sound systems such as those of Jah Shaka.
In the 1990s, Brown's health deteriorated, as he suffered with asthma and substance abuse problems. He died in May 2004 in Sone Waves recording studio in Kingston, Jamaica, after falling and hitting his head.
I'll leave you with some words he said when describing his philosophy to making music during an interview with Black Echoes back in 1980, a few words that say a lot about the man and his passion.

"You have plenty of singers singing about righteousness and reality, but they don't live to it, you know. Anything you sing about you are supposed to live. Me personally, I try to be progressive. I have to insist on progress in everything I'm doing, and set a foundation for the youth that is coming. Any work you do you have to know what you're doing it for. And you have to know where you're going."

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