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Dennis Emmanuel Brown was a truly unique talent. The man widely hailed as 'The Crown Prince Of Reggae' remained at the forefront of a notoriously cut-throat profession for a period spanning some thirty years, adapting with ease to every new musical trend that came and went. Had it not been for his tragic death in 1999, he would undoubtedly still be making hit records. His story is all too brief.

He came into this world on February 1st 1957 in Kingston, Jamaica, and was raised in Chocomo Lawn, an area just north of the downtown area of the city. His father, Arthur wrote scripts for the popular radio show, 'Life In Hopeful Village' in which he also performed along with Dennis' brother, Basil and with such strong links with the entertainment business, it is hardly surprising the youngster was encouraged to develop his God given talents as a singer. In an interview in 1972 with Swing magazine journalists, Dirk Brown and Winston Golding, Dennis recalled his earliest live performances:

"I was still attending school when I started singing at Central Branch primary, where I went. I sang in the choir for about a month. I started singing on stage at the age of ten. The first time was the National Arena. It was the JLP Conference. Mr. Seaga (the JLP leader) was pleased with my singing and he took me to Byron Lee and I did a few shows with him."

According to reports at the time, such was Dennis' tiny stature that during his performance with Byron Lee, he had to stand on top of a pile of beer crates to be seen by the audience. The young singer continued to serve his apprenticeship as a performer with appearances at the Tit For Tat club with The Falcons and at the Smash-ville '68 show, that also featured American major soul acts, King Curtis and The Sweet Inspirations. In 1969 Dennis finally made his recording debut, cutting 'It's A Crime' for producer Derrick Harriott which became a top ten hit on the island's charts. The recording brought him to the attention of producer, Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd, who persuaded him to sign for his Studio One label. Over the next year or so Dennis cut a number of Jamaican hits, including 'Love Grows', 'Created By The Father' and 'No Man Is An Island' - the latter providing the title for his debut album, issued in 1970. The following year, Dodd issued a second collection of the singer's work entitled 'If I Follow My Heart', but despite Dennis' success with the producer, he decided to leave Studio One early in 1972.

Among the first producers he recorded with following his time with Dodd was Lloyd 'The Matador' Daley, with whom he collaborated on three immensely popular singles; 'What About The Half', 'Things In life' and 'Baby Don't Do It'. A little later, Dennis re-united with Derrick Harriott and a number if sizeable Jamaican hits quickly followed. These included 'Concentration', 'Silhouettes', He Can't Spell' and 'Changing Times', all of which were subsequently gathered on the singer's highly acclaimed 'Super Reggae & Soul Hits' album.

During this time, Dennis also regularly performed on stage at venues around Kingston, initially appearing with the Fabulous Five, before working with the Soul Syndicate and the Now Generation. Throughout the remainder of the year and into 1973, he worked with a variety of other producers, including Clive Chin, Phil Pratt, Alvin Ranglin, Eddie Wong, Herman Chin-Loy and Joe Gibbs, cutting the original version of 'Money In My Pocket' for the latter in 1973. Although still in his mid-teens,, Dennis also made his first attempts at producing his own material around this time, releasing 'Someday I'll Want To Know' and 'You Are My Sunshine' on the D'Aguilar sounds label, which he operated along with local entrepreneur, Dave Robinson.

By the close of 1973, the strains of work were taking their toll on the young man and he was eventually forced to take a rest from recording and performing. After a period of recuperation, Dennis returned to the recording studio to work with producer Winston 'Niney' Holness and soon found his singing career back on track with three big sellers in succession - 'Westbound Train', 'Cassandra' and 'I Am The Conqueror'. In 1974, Dennis gave a fascinating insight to the stories behind all three songs in an interview with Chris Lane:

"I was inspired to write 'Westbound Train' when I went out one night for a walk. When I returned I found a note from a girl I had and most of the words of the song are from that note. I wrote 'Cassandra' because I actually know a girl called Cassandra. I wrote 'Conqueror' when I was ill. A couple of months ago I was suffering from exhaustion from overwork so I had to rest for some time - that was why there were rumours that I was dead, because people didn't see me for a long time. 'Conqueror' has a double meaning, I felt I had to conquer my illness and also I wanted the guys to treat their girls better, which is why I say they shouldn't call the sisters 'Leggo Beasts' and 'why do you deal with brutality'".

Although over the next few years Dennis was not averse to recording for other producers, it was his partnership with Niney that proved by far the most fruitful, spawning a series of best selling singles and LPs. But even greater success lay just around the corner. In 1977, he returned to Joe Gibbs' studio to record the album 'Visions' and such was the popularity of the collection, the arrangement became a regular fixture. In 1978, their re-working of 'Money In My Pocket' became Dennis' first major international hit, with the record peaking at number 14 in the UK charts in the spring of 1979. The disc earned Dennis a contract with the WEA subsidiary, Laser, who went on to release a series of singles and albums by the singer. Meanwhile, Dennis had successfully launched his own D.E.B. (Dennis Emmanuel Brown) and Yvonne's Special (named after his wife) labels, on which he regularly issued material by himself and performers such as Junior Delgado, Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs and The Tamlins.

In 1981, Dennis signed with A&M Records and almost immediately returned to the British Pop charts, with 'Love Has Found A Way' and 'Halfway Up Halfway Down' both breaking into the UK listings. Throughout the remainder of the decade and into the next, he recorded innumerable recordings for an array of producers, including Lloyd Charmers for whom he cut the LPs 'Another Day In Paradise' (1992) and 'So Amazing' (1993) and later, Linval Thompson, who issued the singer's album 'Temperature Rising' in 1995.

In the summer of 1999, Dennis embarked on a tour of Brazil, with Gregory Isaacs, Max Romeo and Lloyd Parks & We The People Band, but he was forced to return to Jamaica due to ill health. Over the next few weeks, his condition deteriorated and in the early hours of July 1st, he suffered a cardiac arrest and was rushed to the Kingston's University Hospital. There, doctors worked for hours trying to save his life, but sadly their attempts ultimately proved futile. Around 7 o'clock that morning, Dennis Brown was pronounced dead. In the absence of a formal statement regarding the circumstances of his death, there have been numerous speculative reasons proposed for the tragedy, but while the cause remains uncertain, one thing is for sure, his passing left a chasm in Jamaican music that will never be filled.

This anthology of Dennis' work features many of his best-known recordings from the seventies through to the nineties. These classic sides illustrate why he became one of the most popular recording artists in the history of Reggae music. For his many fans the world over, Dennis Brown will always remain the Crown Prince of Reggae and as long as we have his music, he will always be with us.

LAURENCE CANE-HONEYSETT

Lips Of Wine
Baby Don't Do It
What About The Half
Things In Life
He Can't Spell
Concentration
Musical Heatwave
Silhouettes
Changing Times
Let Love In
Black Magic Woman
Don't You Cry
Cheater
It's Too Late
Song My Mother Used To Sing
At The Foot Of The Mountain
Money In My Pocket (1973 Version)
Show Us The Way
Cassandra
Westbound Train
Africa
No More Will I Roam
Some Like It Hot
I Am The Conqueror
Only A Smile
Yagga Yagga (You'll Suffer)
When You Are Down
Why Seek More
Moving Away
On The Dock Of The Bay
Change Your Style
Wolf And Leopard
Whip Them Jah Jah
So Long (Rastafari Calling)
Why Must I
My Time
Tribulation
Here I Come
Funny Feeling
To The Foundation
Equal Rights
Money In My Pocket (1978 Version)
Man Next Door
Ain't That Loving You
Just A Guy
The Closer I Get To You
Temperature Rising
Rainbow

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