Legendary Jamaican dub poet LKJ celebrates 67th birthday

A man of legendary status: Jamaican dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson (Photo: John Sargant, Flikr)

BUZZ joins Jamaica in celebrating the 67th birthday of prolific dub poet Linton Kwasi Johnson (LKJ).

Johnson was born on Sunday, August 24, 1952 in Chapleton, Clarendon and as been an active dub poet since 1978.

After migrating to the United Kingdom in 1963, Johnson lived with his mother in Brixton, where he quickly joined the British Black Panther Movement.

Johnson is also heavily involved in music, having launched his own record label, LKJ Records in 1981. This album, More Time, was released in 1999 (Photo: Amazon.com)

It was here, while at school, that LKJ realised his passion for poetry – after developing a workshop within the movement, with the help of Rasta Love, a group of poets and drummers.

In 2002 he became the second living poet, and the only black poet, to be published in the Penguin Modern Classics series.

Called Mi Revalueshanary Fren: Selected Poems, Penguin Modern Classics republished Johnson’s poetry in 2006.

Photo: Pinterest

Most of LKJ’s poetry is political, dealing mainly with the experiences of being an Afro-Caribbean in Britain.

“Writing was a political act and poetry was a cultural weapon…” he told The Guardian in 2008.

Johnson has, however, also written about other issues, such as British foreign policy and the death of anti-racist marcher Blair Peach.

His most celebrated poems were written during the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

LKJ’s performance poetry involves the narration of his own verses in Jamaican Patois over dub-Reggae, something very unheard of at the time since the accent was considered ‘foreign and exotic’ to British ears.

Johnson’s work is not without accolades, as in 2005, he was awarded a silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica for distinguished eminence in the field of poetry.

In 2012, he was awarded the Golden PEN Award by English PEN for “a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature”.

Linton Kwesi Johnson reading ‘Tings’ at the Windrush celebrations in the UK in 2018. (Photo: Penguin Books UK, YouTube)

Johnson was awarded Jamaica’s sixth highest honour, the Order of Distinction, in 2014.

Happy birthday, LKJ!