Dennis Brown [1957 - 1999]
As part of the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence celebrations, the Nubian Jak Community Trust, in association with the Jamaica High Commission, the Federation of Reggae Music (FORM) and Brent Council, unveiled a commemorative blue plaque to the undisputed crown prince of reggae music, Dennis Emmanuel Brown in 2012. The plaque was unveiled at Hazeldean Road, his former London home in Harlesden, which he had shared with his musician brother.
With over 800 album releases to his name and literally 1000s of recorded song titles, a submission was made to the Guinness Book of Records to have Dennis Brown recognised as the most prolific recording artist in music history. Jamaican recording artists of the genre may have had more commercial success, but there is no disputing the appeal of Brown’s music or his historical place and status within reggae as its “crown prince.”
Dennis Emmanuel Brown was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 1 February 1957. His professional career began at 11, when he made a guest appearance as lead singer for a band called the Fabulous Falcons, who had been invited to perform at Jamaica’s national arena as part of a political conference by the Jamaican Labour Party. The renowned band leader Byron Lee, who had also been performing at the meeting, was so impressed with the youngster that he invited Brown to subsequently appear at several packaged stage shows around the island, where Brown was billed as the “boy wonder.” It wasn’t long before he came to the attention of producers Derrick Harriott and later Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, who was to release his first single “, No Man is an Island”, in 1969. The song received steady airplay for almost a year before finally becoming a national hit in the Jamaican charts. This was followed by a series of recording with other labels and producers until 1972, when Brown teaming up with Joe Gibbs, made his international breakthrough with his hit “Money in My Pocket”. The song would become his most significant chart success and was even a UK smash hit seven years later, peaking on the charts at number 14.
Brown continued to record prolifically, yet despite his star status, he remained faithful to the roots of reggae. As a result, today it is virtually impossible to go to a gathering anywhere in the world where reggae music is played without hearing the music of Dennis Brown.
By the late 1990s, Brown’s health began to rapidly deteriorate, and he had developed respiratory problems brought on by his well-documented use of cocaine. Then, in May 1999, he was diagnosed with pneumonia after a tour of Brazil and developed further complications on returning to Jamaica. Finally, on 30 June 1999, aged 42, Dennis Brown was rushed to Kingston’s University Hospital, suffering from cardiac arrest. He died the following day. He is survived by his wife, Yvonne, and 13 children.
In October 2011, 12 years after his passing, Dennis Emanuel Brown was awarded the Order of Distinction in the Commander (CD) rank for his contribution to the Jamaican music industry.
The Dennis Brown Blue Heritage Plaque was organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, in collaboration with the Jamaica High Commission, the Federation of Reggae Music (FORM), and Brent Council. The unveiling was performed by Yvonne Brown (wife) and Leroy Brown (brother) and the Brown family, and was attended by distinguished guests, local councillors, famous reggae musicians, as well as other notable guests including Levi Roots, members of the public, and media. It was followed by a special reception which took place at the Unity Centre in Church Road, Harlesden. It involved speeches, performances and tributes, and a world premier screening of Dennis Brown’s only tour of Africa c/o Hawkeye Records.
We certainly are pleased to be associated with the effort to honour the late Dennis Brown. It is important that we honour the ancestors. His Excellency, Anthony Johnson, Most Recent High Commissioner for Jamaica
This is a timeless and international recognition for an artist who has contributed so much to the development and evolution of reggae music, both in Jamaica and worldwide. Leroy Brown, brother to Dennis Brown
Dennis Brown was a legend who inspired a generation. He will never be forgotten. His message of love will always resonate through his music. Levi Roots, Founder of Reggae Reggae Sauce
Brent council is pleased to be associated with the Dennis Brown blue plaque tribute, and to recognise one of its former residents in this way. We believe the plaque will be a positive contribution to the borough's diverse legacy and history. Councillor Aslam Choudry, Mayor of Brent.
Dennis Brown has undoubtedly made one of the most significant contributions to reggae’s past. In the future the musical works of Dennis Brown are going to be much sort after artistic treasure in much the same way as Pablo Picasso’s are today. Delroy Washington, singer and head of the Federation of Reggae Music
The musical visions of Dennis Brown and his words of wisdom will continue to inspire future generations forever more; Greensleeves & VP Records are pleased that Dennis Brown’s contribution to reggae’s music’s rich musical heritage is being recognised in this way. Joy Ellington of VP Records (Greensleeves)
Location: 55 Hazeldean Road Harlesden, London, NW10 8QT