D. Brown Memories
I don't remember how old I was but one of my first memory of Dennis Brown came about when I heard the song, 'Created by the Father.' The radio was on, I was in the kitchen looking out the window while the leaves on the large ackee tree in the yard were swaying as if they too were enjoying the lyrics to that early D. Brown song:
Look at the trees how the leaves are blowing away in the sky...all these things were created by the father.
That album, 'No Man is an Island' is a classic example of early Dennis Brown when he was working with Sir Clement Dodd in his Saint Andrew, Studio One studio. Dennis voice was clear and emotional while the plaintive melody created the mood; he was singing from his heart at his young age.
Dennis was an artist that was very prolific having been credited with recording hundreds of songs in the form of singles and albums/Cds. He worked with numerous producers, each one bringing out a musical side of the Dennis that we have grown to love.
He continued to be one of my favorite singer and when I came to New York in the seventies, Dennis Brown was the singer of the day. Whether he was singing his memorable songs from the Joe Gibbs, Duhaney Park, Saint Andrew stable or his work with 'Niney' Holmes, or the other producers that he recorded with, no basement party would be complete without the Dennis Brown selections playing. 'Ghetto Girl' one one the seventies hit, was reminiscent of all those young girls who had found their Rasta lover, were transforming themselves and their parents weren't having any of it. Back then, some parents told their children that they would have rather had a 'faggot' living in their house rather than a Rasta.
Stay at home girl, that little girl was born on the ghetto side of town...she never stay at home...stay at home sister stay at home don't let your mama down don't be a run around...your mama is wondering where you are
He didn't just sing love songs like 'Funny Feelings', he was socially and culturally conscious as well. 'Running Up and Down', Want to Be No General, where he expounded that they would ride like lightening and crash like thunder achieving only a burial. Africa We Want To Go, was him pleading for the return to the motherland Africa and more specifically Ethiopia, the land of David. The Prophet Rides Again was one of those classic songs that framed the seventies and reconnected Dennis Brown to his cultural roots.
Keeping up with Dennis's music was a challenge. Good thing my brother was always visiting the record shop or had friends that were visiting Jamaica on a regular basis. There was a time I wasn't listening too much to Dennis Brown because he was in his 'fluxey' stage. He was trying to sing and record so much that some of those songs were better left in his head. He redeemed himself however and he was back in my listening fave. In retrospect, all of those songs are now collector items. Death has a way of increasing your value.
I have seen Dennis in concert numerous times. He was a no show at the Beacon Theater. He was the reason why I purchased that ticket. At first, the announcement was that he was delayed coming in from England but he would appear on the stage. As the evening wore on, and the excuse became more and more, it became evident that he was not going to be there. The other artists on the bill did their best to fill the spot but it was not the same. Delroy Wilson was too drunk to care about what he was trying to sing.
When shows were held at the Skating Ring in Brooklyn, I ventured out to see him in performance. Everything was going well, Dennis was warming up, getting into his groove when someone in the audience decided that a gun salute was in order, after all. I ducked and so did the other people around. Dennis was still singing but when the second round of saluting started, he too got flat and someone crawled on the stage to inform us that the show was over and for us to get home safely. So much for enjoying that show and getting my money's worth.
Sunsplash '89 was a memorable experience. Catherine Hall, Montego Bay, Saint James was the venue then for the splash. You needed your reggae bed (a piece of cardboard) and whatever else to get you through the night. This show was an all-nighter into morning. Artists came and went. Dennis was the closing act. He was on stage singing one of his songs and I could remember the sun coming up while he was singing. What an experience that was!
BAM in Brooklyn, another Dennis moment. He performed and sang and I was signing along with all the songs he did. The person next to turned and asked me if he was my favorite and I told him one of them. Even though his time on stage was short, he did his bet to satisfy the audience.
Fast forward to July 1, 1999 listening to the radio as usual and the news came over that Dennis had died. He had collapsed and was rushed to hospital where he died. I was a little numb, thinking that it wasn't true. But when they started to play his songs I knew it was real. Even though there were all sort of rumor going around about his drug habit and addiction, and what it was doing to him, I didn't want to accept it.
I remember calling my children in New Orleans to tell them the news. I was thankful that I had seen him in concert and had some of his music in my collection. I always felt that Dennis had so many songs out that he too did not remember all that he recorded. He would perform the same songs it seemed, over and over again not varying too far from that set. Because of the numerous people that he recorded, I believe that Dennis had trouble keeping up with the titles for his songs. We have two unrelated Promised Land and songs that were too similar in titles, or rerecorded with different titles.
Another birthday has come and gone and the Crown Prince still struggles to establish himself. He is often overshadowed by the King. It is hard competing with Bob Marley but in my opinion, there should be no competition. February has twenty-eight days, enough for a Brown and a Marley a day.
Mi deh yah now!
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