The Crown Prince of Reggae
Dennis Brown the Crown Prince of reggae live in Jamaica. D. Brown has been my favorite artist since way back in the late 70’s. Out of all the reggae shows I’ve seen Dennis Brown was by far one of the best, always giving 110%, his hits were all killer, no filler. When he played Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica he would always close the show, this meant taking the stage at 8 or 9 in the morning. For those who have never attended Sunsplash in Jamaica, it was an endurance test, four days of sun down to sun-up of music with not much sleep in the day time. By 7 in the morning after standing all night, signing and dancing & skankin’ you are dead tired. The sun is now rising, it’s 90˚ and the relentless heat beats down like a 10 pound sledge-hammer. Once the music starts and Dennis Brown takes the stage and you hear those first lines, “Here I come, with love and not hatred..”, all weariness vanishes and you feel a sudden surge of energy. Here I Come was his opening song and the crowd would just go crazy, screaming, yelling, licking off shots with their fingers, jumping up and down, was an awesome sight to see and be part of. I’ve seen Dennis Brown dozens of times and I was never disappointed in a show, he may have shown up late on occasion but he always made up for it. D. Brown was one of the people I didn’t get to interview for my book Reggae Island, I would call and it was never a good time, sometimes I would hang out by my friend Juicy place (the juice guy) who’s stand was right across from D. Browns place, he and his entourage would drive in his gate, see me and shout “Yes my yout, likkle more” (meaning, in a little bit) but it just never happened. We would always talk backstage at shows or festivals but never in an interview situation. I was in Jamaica when he died, I was leaving that same day, below is an excerpt from my journal that day.
7/1/99 – it’s 9 a.m. Just got a call from Wayne he says Dennis Brown is dead! I can’t believe it, I have to hear it on the news before I’m convinced. Walked up to Half Way Tree to the bank to get some cash before I leave. I got through at the bank without much hassle, walking home all I hear coming from car radios and the street vendors radios is pure Dennis Brown music filling the air, so I guess it must be true. I’m all packed and just trying to enjoying my last few hours in Kingston. I just heard on IRIE FM Dennis Brown has indeed gone to the promised land, apparently he just came back from a tour in Brazil and was ill and had been taken to the hospital where they said he had a heart attack, he was 42. What a loss, I remember all those shows and times we hung out, what a shame. I wonder what it was? Jah Earl picked me up about 12:30 and we arrived at the airport about 1. We talked about D. Brown on the way and burned a spliff in his honor. I checked in and drank a beer as I waited for my flight to arrive from Montego Bay. I spotted Ken Boothe and his wife we getting off the plane, he said they were coming back from a hotel gig in Mo’bay. “Why u haffe leave so soon, u only been here a few weeks” he said. Am glad I saw him, you always have to check for Ken. I got to Mo’bay about 2, did some shopping, bought some Over Proof rum, Blue Mountain coffee and a few Cuban cigars. I had enough time and money left for about 3 Red Stripes before boarding. The plane was full, got home just in time to turn on the Letterman show to try to catch Chinna with Ziggy Marley, it turns out the show won’t air until Friday.