All hail Dennis Brown
Siblings of Dennis Brown (from left) Mary, Franklyn, and Michelle at the tomb of the reggae singer at National Heroes' Park in Kingston on Wednesday. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

FAMILY members, close friends, musicians, and Twelve Tribes of Israel members gathered at the National Heroes' Park in Kingston to pay tribute to late reggae singer Dennis Emmanuel Brown on Wednesday.

Brown — whose recording career started in 1968 — would have celebrated his 66th birthday on February 1.

The singer was remembered in words, music, and song.

The entertainer's youngest sibling, Franklyn "Toby" Brown, said the occasion was appropriate given the rich legacy the singer left, after his passing on July 1, 1999.

"Dennis has done a lot for reggae music, so it's only fitting to show some 'appreci-love' for the work that he has done," Brown, 40, told the Jamaica Observer.

Brown, who flew in from New York for the occasion, said he and his elder sibling had a father-son type of relationship.

"We were close. When he was at home, it was just like when he's on the road – a love him show all the way. Weh him show pon di outside, is weh him show pon di inside," he said.

The singer's sister, Michelle Brown, was equally glowing in her praises.

"He did a lot of groundwork in putting reggae out there. Bob Marley did his portion, but Dennis did another portion of the work. It also gives the younger generation who don't know much about Dennis Brown an appreciation of the singer and his music," she said.

The occasion saw several artistes giving their interpretation of Dennis Brown's work. Saxophonist Dean Fraser performed a soulful rendition of If I Follow My Heart. Fred Locks had the gathering in a singalong with Inseparable; Rohan 'Sixy' Morris, who discarded his shoes when the soles fell off, pressed along with Say What You Say; Itral Ites sang Let Me Down Easy, and Andrew Coombs did No Man's An Island.

The women were not be outdone. Isha Bel performed Lips of Wine, Arlene Naphtali (If I Follow My Heart), Delphine Chupin (Witchita Lineman), Kosher (Love and Hate), Teshay Makeda (Sitting and Watching), and Nana EQ (My Brethren).

The singers were backed by Earl "Chinna" Smith and his Inna Di Yard Binghistra Movement.

Alando Terrelonge, state minister in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, said Dennis Brown's message is one which should reasonate with all Jamaicans.

"Dennis Brown's story represents the best of all Jamaicans and it says 'nowithstanding where you're from, you too can have not just national impact, but global impact. It is is a message that must resonate with all of our young kings and young queens growing up right here in Jamaica," Terrelonge told the gathering.

"Dennis Brown understood this: that reggae music is not just about [feeling] good. He, like Bob Marley and others, understood that there is power in reggae music. Reggae music is the music of freedom, it is the music of peace, it is the music of unity, it is the music that says 'love and hate can never be friends' because 'here I come with love and not hate'," he continued.

Born on 1 February 1, 1957, Brown was influenced by singers such as Delroy Wilson (whom he later cited as the single greatest influence on his style of singing), Errol Dunkley, John Holt, Ken Boothe, and Bob Andy.

In 1973, the teenaged Brown erupted with a string of hit songs that announced him as a bona fide star.

Cassandra, Africa, No More Shall I Roam and Westbound Train are still tops on the 'D Brown' hit parade. All were produced by Winston "Niney" Holness.

Other Brown/Holness collaborations hit big such as Wolf and Leopards, which is the singer's most commercially successful album.

Dennis Brown was an inspiration and influence for many reggae singers from the late 1970s through to the 2000s, including Barrington Levy, Junior Reid, Frankie Paul, Luciano, Bushman, and Richie Stephens. He has more than 70 albums to his credit.

In 2011, Brown was posthumously recognised with an Order of Distinction (Commander Class) for his contribution to Jamaican music.

Guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith (right) and the acoustic section of his Inna Di Yard Binghistra Movement band
Delphine Chupin
Former manager of Bob Marley, Allan 'Skill" Cole (centre) with singers Johnny Osbourne (left) and Denzil "Wadadah" Williams.
Teshay Makeda
Nana EQ
Isha Bel
Arlene Naphtali
Rohan 'Sixy' Morris
Fred Locks
Veteran artiste Sister Carol
Saxophonist Dean Fraser
A section of the audience attending the birthday celebration of Reggae's Crown Prince Dennis Brown at the National Arena in Kingston on Wednesday.
Brian Bonitto

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