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Interview: Dennis Brown in the Words of his Peers

Interview: Dennis Brown in the Words of his Peers

Interview: Dennis Brown in the Words of his Peers

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Artists and producers share their memories of the Crown Prince who would have been 59 today.

Sampler

Dennis Brown is still one of reggae’s best loved singers.

From his rise as a 60s child star recording for Coxsone Dodd and Derrick Harriott until his untimely death in 1999 aged just 42, the Crown Prince rooted himself in the hearts of his people.

Dennis BrownBlessed with a rich baritone voice and an infectious smile, Dennis voiced for a procession of Jamaica’s top ranking producers. He influenced generations of younger vocalists, leaving a sprawling catalogue of hits piled upon hits.

There is some debate as to his exact position in reggae’s pantheon compared to Bob Marley or Alton Ellis, the scattered nature of his output and the circumstances of his passing. Yet his personable and down-to-earth demeanour is consistently praised by his fans, colleagues, friends and family alike.

To celebrate what would have been his 59th birthday on February 1st, United Reggae has assembled this tribute from the interview archives. It’s a small selection of the abiding memories of Dennis Brown from his fellow artists, the people who knew him best.

Winston “Niney” Holness, producer

“I knew Dennis from a little guy. When he used to sing they used to put him on some Red Stripe beer boxes to reach the mic. He always loved Slim Smith. We decided to carry him to Bunny Lee’s camp but Bunny’s camp was too rough for him – it was for pure big men. But we knew a nice guy named Derrick Harriott so we took him there and from there he started.”

Winston “Niney” Holness, producer

Derrick Harriott, producer

“Dennis was like my own son, man, I tell you. A very nice person. He’s an Aquarian too. A humanitarian. Always laughing and giving jokes and things like that. One of the greatest singers Jamaica has ever seen.”

Derrick Harriott

Sly Dunbar, drummer, producer

“Dennis Brown and me we go back from kid days. He knew me from when I was just starting to play and I knew him from when he was just starting to sing. He used to be in this band called the Falcons and sometimes I would come in and be a part-time drummer when the drummer wasn't around. We used to see one another in studios and I knew Dennis was a great singer.”

Sly Dunbar

Earl 16, singer

“I used to go to Joe Gibbs a lot because that’s where people like D Brown would just turn up, just come and hang out, and reason. I was like “Wow!” It was something that we really liked doing.”

Earl 16

Niney

“I made a song and when I was making the rhythm round at Joe Gibbs’, Joe said “This don’t want nobody to sing upon it. Just give it a name and put a few things on it like Lee Perry do – making those instrumental songs”. I said “No, I have this little guy. I want to bust this little guy and give him a number one – his name’s Dennis Brown”.”

Winston “Niney” Holness

King Jammy, producer, soundman and engineer

“Dennis Brown was one of the most gentlemanly artists. I don’t know how to describe him. He was such a wonderful guy. He was the best good hearted person. I never saw Dennis Brown be vexed. I never saw him in that mood ever. I would always see him smiling in a good mood. And he was such a good singer.”

King Jammy

Clive Chin, producer

“Dennis. He was nice, very nice. Very easy. You didn’t have problems working with those – those were the best ones. I’ve worked with some real headache ones. But once you find the good ones to work with you try to stick with it.”

Clive Chin

Don Carlos, singer

“Dennis Brown was a star for everyone in Jamaica. Everyone loves Dennis Brown since Dennis came out so he was a big influence to me. He was a good human being too. He was an artist that was full of love. He was very loving.”

Don Carlos

Mad Professor, producer and engineer

“He had that kind of voice. Dennis. Those were guys where you could come soft and smooth, you could some militant - it's up to you where you want it.”

Mad Professor

Alpheus, singer

“Dennis Brown gave me the formula for writing a song – I’ll never tell anyone what it is.”

Alpheus

Delroy Washington, singer

"What attracted a lot of young people over here to Dennis Brown was that he was quite ordinary. Dennis Brown could walk down Harlesden High Street or Church Road or go to the blues down at Denzil Road and just be like anyone else."

Delroy Washington

Reggae Regulars, band

“A super man, really super. He was just so talented, you wouldn't think he was so humble.”

“He was a nice person. Very, very humble.”

“He wouldn't hear something nice that would go with a track and keep it to himself, he'd come and tell you, and almost insist that you put it in.”

“And he didn't act like a superstar. Anywhere he's see you he'd just talk to you just like, you know? One of the nicest guys I've met in the business.”

Reggae Regulars

Capital Letters, band

“He was a very good man, trust me. He was down to earth. It was like you had known him for a hundred years. You couldn’t tell he was a musician.”

Capital Letters

Carlton Manning, singer

"I will never forget Dennis Brown. I loved that man as I loved my brother. So much that I got this shirt. Dennis took me to the store and said “Tek what you want” and I took three shirts. That was 1981 and I’ve still got one of them. I’ll never do away with that shirt. Dennis paid for those things. He took me to another store and said “Get a suitcase” and I took up a little suitcase and he carried it back and took a bigger one. He carried me to the Clarks store and said “I know you’re a Clarks man, tek what you want”. Dennis was seeing that I came home with something."

Carlton Manning

Etana, singer

“Why must it be on his birthday alone that we hear music from Dennis Brown?”

Etana

Earl 16

“When I go into a dance I’m not just singing my tunes, I’m singing Promised Land, I’m singing Dennis Brown”.

Earl 16

Marla Brown, singer, daughter

"Dad loved with his whole heart. He was your brother, he was your friend"

Marla Brown

This interview was updated with new quotes for 2017.

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