Last Friday, reggae singer Dennis Brown would have celebrated his 61st birthday.
Throughout his career, Brown recorded more than 75 albums and was one of the major stars of lovers rock. But before he was dubbed the ‘Crown Prince of Reggae’, he was a youngster who proved influential on future generations of reggae singers.
The Gleaner caught up with veteran musician and former lead singer of Studio One’s in-house band, Vin Morgan, who said that Brown was destined to be an extraordinary reggae singer.
“I knew him around the time that he did No Man is an Island, in the early 1970s. He was merely a teenager, but his vocals were out of this world. It was rumoured that he was supposed to have recorded for Derrick Harriott, but Sir Coxsone was the one who eventually did it,” he said.
“He was a lovable little youth. He was never one to argue and was very good at listening. He respected his elders and I believe that was one of the reasons why he was well loved by those around him. He liked to fool around the instruments as he was around a lot of musicians, so before you know it, he was playing the guitar,” Morgan added.
A native of Linstead, St Catherine, the musician said he would often invite the teenager to his hometown for community events.
“He was still a child but a star. He was well loved and had a large following. People liked him, as he would sing with a smile. He was very articulate and pronounced his words clearly. He worked magic on cover versions … and sang a lot of love songs, so even though he was just a teenager, he had ladies falling at his feet,” Morgan said.
By the mid-1970s, Brown became an internationally acclaimed reggae singer who had recorded for top producers like Joe Gibbs, Derrick Harriott, Gussie Clarke and others.
There was no slowing down for the singer as he continued to record numerous hit albums, including If I follow my Heart, Money in My Pocket, Words of Wisdom and Joseph Coat of Many Colours.
In the late 1990s, Brown’s health began to deteriorate. Hehad developed respiratory issues, probably exacerbated by long-standing problems with drug addiction, namely cocaine. Brown took ill in May 1999, and was diagnosed with pneumonia after a tour in Brazil. He passed away on July 1, 1999. He was 42 years old.
“I was in total shock. The music fraternity and the world still have not come to terms with his death. His death continues to be a great loss to the music world,” Morgan said.