The late Jamaican singer Dennis Brown has been one of my favorite singers ever since I started listening to reggae. He’s one of Jamaica’s most beloved and prolific artists, and has often been referred to as The Crown Prince of Reggae, following the lineage of Bob Marley, who is by far the most successful reggae artist to date.
During Dennis Brown’s far too short lifetime – he died only 42 years old following hard use of cocaine – he cut a myriad of romantic hits and rootsy masterpieces.
Like many other Jamaican singers and musicians he started his career at Studio One with producer Coxsone Dodd, with whom he cut his first hit song No Man is an Island in the late 60s, only eleven years old.
He later moved on and started a fruitful musical relationship with Winston “Niney” Holness, but during his 30 years in the business he also worked with a plethora of different producers, including Phil Pratt, Bunny Lee, Joe Gibbs, Sly & Robbie and Augustus “Gussie” Clarke. He also ventured into self-production and started his own label in the late 70s.
In his early 20s Dennis Brown was a legend with major tunes like Africa, Here I Come, Westbound Train and Money in My Pocket. He had a strong reputation in Jamaica and abroad and only lacked an international smash hit, and the deal with major label A&M in the early 80s might have been his ticket to Bob Marley-like stardom. Unfortunately his albums for the label didn’t match his earlier output. They were too slick and polished.
Dennis Brown was an extremely consistent singer equally at ease with both romantic and conscious material, and the list of powerful roots classics and silky ballads could go on and on and on.
He left behind a rich musical legacy, and at the Blood and Fire board there’s a discussion about the difficulties selecting only ten Dennis Brown favorites. Some have presented their ten, 12 or 20 favorites.
Reggaemani has taken the liberty to compile the selection into a Spotify playlist, including my own top ten, presented below. Not all of the tracks selected on the forum are available on Spotify, but the great majority is actually included, with respect to the fact that it could be the wrong version, since Dennis Brown – just as many other reggae artists – recorded a string of versions of one particular tune.
Reggaemani’s top ten Dennis Brown (in no particular order)
Drifter (Live at Montreux Jazz Festival)
No More Will I Roam
Created by the Father
Milk and Honey
Deliverance Will Come
Words of Wisdom