Today, February 1, the world celebrates the vocal brilliance and silky soul of Dennis Emmanuel Brown, who would have marked his 63rd birthday.
The ‘Crown Prince of Reggae’ enjoyed an illustrious 30-year career, which started when he was nine, standing atop beer boxes as he sang at concerts with calypso band, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. By the time he was 12, he was recording for esteemed producer Clement Dodd. His debut album, No Man Is An Island (1970), encapsulated the foundation ‘one drop’ sonic of reggae music. His subsequent albums went on to contribute to the development of the genre, and he earned his first solo Grammy nomination in 1994 for the album Light My Fire.
At the height of it all, the pearly smile crooner died at 42 years old in 1999.
Today, BUZZ presents five interesting facts about the tremolo vocalist. P.S. Happy Earthstrong, D Brown!
He was a giver
Perhaps it was the sharing mentality that pervades the tenement yard setting of which he was a product, or the teachings of his parents, in any case, Brown is often remembered as being selfless. Even on a day like his birthday, neighbours and friends say he would make it about them, buying food and taking them out for a night on the town. Even when the singer earned enough money to move ‘uptown’, he never forgot his downtown roots, and often returned with gifts and cash.
His father was an actor
Little is known of Brown’s mother who passed away in the 60s, but his father was Arthur Brown, a well-respected actor and scriptwriter in the theatre space. He was also a journalist. Needless to say, his pops was supportive of his interest in music and performing.
He was born at ‘Big Yard’ on Orange Street
Brown was always surrounded by music, as he was born on the musical ‘Beat Street’ which housed several studios and record shops by reggae pioneers like Prince Buster, Bob Marley and Clement Dodd. Orange Street is also home to Jamaican greats like Augustus Pablo, whose Rocker’s International record shop is still in operation.
He was Bob Marley’s favourite singer
Upon hearing the child prodigy, Marley dubbed Brown the greatest singer in the world, before the world even knew who he was. Marley is also credited for dubbing Brown the ‘Crown Prince of Reggae’, though some argue that Brown is second to no one.
He recorded more than 70 albums in his career
Some records say 75, others 80, either way, more than 70 albums of timeless, melodious hits is laudable. His catalogue boasts classics like Money In My Pocket, Revolution, The Foundation, Silhouettes, Promised Land, How Could I Leave and his classic opening number, Here I Come.