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KEEPING DENNIS BROWN’S LEGACY ALIVE

HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Thursday, February 02, 2012

FOR Trevor ‘Leggo’ Douglas, the annual concert for Dennis Brown in downtown, Kingston is more than a tribute show. It is making sure one of reggae’s greats gets his just due.

Last Sunday’s show at the intersection of Orange and North streets was the third staging co-produced by Douglas, and the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA).

From left: Maxi Priest, Marcia Griffiths and Freddie McGreggor thrill audience at the Dennis Brown concert on Orange Street on Sunday. (Photos: Jermaine Barnaby)

 

Eight bands backed artists who either knew or revered the singer popularly known as the Crown Prince of Reggae. Brown, who was born and raised in the Orange Street area, died in July, 1999 at age 42 from respiratory failure.

He would have celebrated his 55th birthday today.

Douglas, who knew Brown since his days as a child star in the late 1960s, told the Observer that the event has got bigger each year. This is due mainly to contributions from friends and organisations who recognise the contribution Brown made to Jamaican music.

“Dennis Brown was a irie youth who did fulla love, gi wey everything him have,” Douglas said. “Me, him, Gregory (Isaacs), an’ Big Youth a like blood brother.”

Brown, Isaacs and Big Youth were just some of the artists who recorded for Douglas’s Cash N Carry Records in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Douglas also acted as road manager for Brown and Big Youth when they toured England in 1977.

Brown recorded over 100 albums for countless producers during a remarkable 33-year career. Musicologists and fans point to his recordings with Winston ‘Niney’ Holness, Joe Gibbs and Sly and Robbie as his best work.

His songs for Holness’s Observer label came in the mid-1970s and include Cassandra, Westbound Train and No More Will I Roam.

Brown had a magical run with Gibbs who produced his three albums for the major A&M label. This included the soulful Love Has Found Its Way, which was released in 1982.

Sly and Robbie produced some of his best songs of the 1980s, such as Sitting and Watching and Revolution.

Though he never broke through commercially in the United States, Brown had a loyal following throughout Britain where he lived for several years.

Douglas, who said he last saw Brown one week before his death, believes it is fitting that he is remembered by a community which knew him best.

“As big as Dennis was, him neva forget him roots. Him neva lose that common touch,” he said.

Last year, Dennis Brown was awarded the Order of Distinction, Jamaica’s fifth highest honor.

 

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