Jamaican Music

Tributes to Dennis Brown, the Crown Prince of Reggae Music

Written by Stan Evan Smith

The mark of one who is great can always be measured by the how he is respected by his peers, read what Freddie McGregor, Richie Stephens and Ibo Cooper have to say about Dennis Brown’s importance to Jamaican music and Brown’s impact on Freddie & Richie careers.

Richie Stephens: Salutes Dennis Brown, “The Crown Prince of Reggae”

Richie Stevens is one of the premier vocalists in Jamaican music; he along with Sanchez, Luciano, Frankie Paul, and Maxi Priest to name a few are disciples of the late Dennis Brown “The Crown Prince of Reggae” vocal style.

 

SS: What does Dennis Brown mean to you?

RS: Dennis Brown is the main inspiration for my career. Growing up I saw Dennis Brown as the standard for reggae music, many of us listened and patterned Dennis. He was the soulful reggae singer … his attitude, charisma and vibe was special.

SS: Beside Bob Marley Dennis Brown is the second most important person in reggae music his vocal style has been the most successful and defines reggae singing.

RS: I don’t know of I would say second to Bob Marley, D Brown was bobs’ favorite singer….I would give them parallel respect and honor despite the fact that Bob internationalized reggae. Dennis was an influence to Bob.


SS: Why do you think he hasn’t been given a national honor in Jamaica?

RS: Sometimes it takes us to lobby for what we feel deserves for great artist like Dennis Brown

SS: Mickey Bennett refers to Dennis Brown as the “reggae singer’s singer” do you agree?

RS: Without a doubt, about half the music industry grew up patterning Dennis Brown’s style. That alone tells you the kind of impact he made on reggae.

SS: If his contribution were removed from Jamaican music what would we be left with?

RS: Certainly not the impact or development we get from Dennis Brown. He was not only a singer, but he helped carve out that corner stone of Jamaican music. We have to celebrate him now that he is no longer here.

 

Freddie McGregor: Talk about Dennis Brown, “The Crown Prince of Reggae”


There was special friendship between Dennis Brown and Freddie McGregor both personal and processional. At the time of Dennis’ passing, McGregor was very instrumental ensuring Dennis Brown was buried in Jamaica’s National Heroes Park alongside Jamaica’s national heroes including Marcus Garvey, Nanny, and Paul Bogle. Hear what Freddie has to say about his peer and friend.


SS: How would describe Dennis Brown in terms of Jamaican music?

FM: A true icon of Jamaican music. There is no single artist out of Jamaica who has more # 1 singles than Dennis Brown including Bob Marley. Dennis plays, probably the most important role other than Bob in Jamaican music. He is Jamaica’s first child star; we could compare him to Michael Jackson, which is big deal as part of our music heritage where Dennis Brown is concern.

SS: Many singers who came after Brown took a page out of his vocal style book.

FM: Most certainly, if you were a youth coming up, your influence would be Dennis Brown, he was the influence you would gravitate to, every one tried to sing like Dennis Brown. You almost couldn’t help but try to sound like D. Brown. I personally had a great problem trying to find my own identity in terms of sound. It took me years of work when I realized the only way to establish my identity was to constantly record, which is what established my identity. If I didn’t I would want to sound like Dennis Brown.

Stan Smith @ Freddie McGregor

 

SS: If Dennis Brown’ contribution were to taken out of Jamaican music what would we have left?

FM: There would be void. The amount of babies created from Dennis Brown’s
songs take up a good percentage of Jamaican population, which says it all. A lot of the youths born today in their 20’s were, as a result of Dennis Brown’s music.

SS: You and have talked over the years about the fact that he hasn’t received a national award, why do you think this is so?

FM: When I received my OD (Order of Distinction), I said that my OD belongs to me and Dennis Brown until Dennis Brown gets his. Dennis Brown is more than deserving of an OD. Personally, I going to fight to ensure Dennis Brown get an OD. Dennis Brown play such an important role in Jamaican music, that nothing can erase the work he has done. The work that you have done is important because that is what people remember you for. Dennis has to be credited for the work he has done. Dennis is the only Jamaican artist to be buried at the National Heroes Park.

SS: You had a very close relationship to Dennis talk about what his not being here has meant to you?

FM: I loved to work with Dennis Brown because his presence played a great part in moving the music forward. It (his passing) left a void in the music which many tried to fill. Just Like when Bob moved on, it took a long time to try and catch up. Also this made me have to step up my game and work harder. Now it is like I am working for me and Dennis in one. If you notice my shows are getting hotter than before and getting better than before. I realize that Dennis is not here so I have to raise the bar. It has been left to me and Beres. I am about putting on the pressure and I ain’t stopping.

 

SS: Thank you Freddie.

Ibo” Cooper on Dennis Brown

By Stan Evan Smith

Michael “Ibo” Cooper is a founding member of the reggae band Third World. He was a vocalist, keyboardist, songwriter and bandleader. He left the band in 1997. Ibo was a contemporary of Bob Marley and the Wailers and Dennis Brown and he and toured with both. Cooper is the head of the Caribbean, Latin American and jazz department at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica. Stan Smith talked to Cooper at Rebel Salute in Jamaica.

 

Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper

 

SS: Ibo, tell about Dennis as you saw him?

Ibo: I remember little Dennis Brown; he was about 11 or 12 yrs old. It was at the Carib Theatre, Jamaica Independence stage show. He gave an electrifying performance, and was a very charismatic person. He sang standard love songs and originals; He had the hearts of the people and had that welcoming smile. Dennis carried that youthfulness throughout his life, that spark, the vibrancy that eventually landed him the title the Crown Prince of Reggae.

SS: How would you describe his legacy?

 

Ibo:: Dennis Brown made his mark on music…we do not want to narrow it and say reggae, his music will have an impact on generations to come the way Beethoven had an impact on Europe and Fela had an impact on Africa. When the future comes, Dennis will be one of the greatest names in music as a whole. Dennis was man who could sing anything from, are you ready to stand up and fight, roots rock, black revolutionary message music (Revolution) to what would be considered dinner music ‘Wichita Line Man’ a Burt Bacharach’s standard. His vocal range covered a wide gamut. Dennis covered it all.

 

SS: Would you consider his vocal style one of the most influential in reggae music

Ibo: Without a doubt, Dennis Brown was the ultimate stylist. We (3rd World, Gregory Isaac & Dennis Brown) were together on the first Reggae Sunsplash tour outside Jamaica in 1985; Dennis, because he had so many hits and he was so popular, was always a tough act to play on the same stage with. Whether we were on before him or had to follow him.

SS: What about him as a person?

Ibo: Dennis was friend; we always had warm words, his welcoming smile and a positive attitude. We enjoyed a friendship and camaraderie as persons

About the author

Stan Evan Smith

Senior Editor and North East Media Coordinator for Jamaicans.com