D Brown's swan song
Dennis Brown

Today, Reggae's Crown Prince Dennis Brown would have celebrated his 66th birthday. The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk remembers his vast legacy and global impact.

MUCH has been said about the over 70 albums Dennis Brown recorded in his 32-year career. The Crown Prince of Reggae cut songs for top Jamaican producers as well as independent labels and American company A&M Records.

Not much, however, is known about Let me be The One, reputedly his final studio album co-produced by Don Hewitt and Sidney Mills. It was released by VP Records in 2000, one year after the singer's death at age 42.

Let me be The One was nominated for Best Reggae Album at the 2001 Grammy Awards. The winner was Art & Life by Beenie Man.

Mills, who was born in the United Kingdom to Jamaican parents, grew up in Kingston. In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, he said it was Brown who brought him into the project.

The keyboardist, known for his work with rapper KRS-One and Steel Pulse, knew Brown since the 1980s. He backed him on stage as a member of the Kalabash and A Team bands when he performed in New York.

Production on Let me be The One took place in New York at Mills' Living Room Studio. Mills, drummer Anastas "Nas-T" Hackett, bassist Val Douglas of Now Generation Band fame and guitarist JJ Sansaverino were the main musicians.

"For my part, working alongside Dennis Brown it was fairly fast – I would say around two-three weeks. He would come by our Living Room Studio in Brooklyn where my partner Barrington Bailey and I had previously worked on other projects in New York and London with (producer) Castro Brown. My experience with Dennis Brown on this project was always upbeat, as we would have in-depth conversations about life and our experiences, and from those topics, he would make the melodies and I would add the musical background," Mills recalled.

Hewitt had previously produced one song with Brown — a cover of rock band 38 Special's Second Chance. They first met in 1985 and Brown suggested they do an album.

The New York-based Hewitt, who also had strong ties to Gregory Isaacs, completed Let me be The One with producer/engineer Phillip Smart at the latter's HC&F Studios in Long Island.

The album was dominated by lovers rock songs like the title track, and covers of Tom Jones' What's up Pussycat, Bread's Baby I'm A Want You and I Dig You Baby, originally done by Jerry Butler.

Mills, who currently works with Worl-A-Girl and several gospel acts, said he is "humbled and thankful" to have worked with a bona fide reggae legend.

"Dennis Brown was a special person overall as he always greeted me with a warm smile and was very welcoming towards me.

His sense of melodies and lyrical flow was unique, wherein many upcoming artistes still smile when listening to his style of music," he added.

Dennis Brown (centre) is flanked by his brother Leroy (left) and music producer Don Hewitt.
Howard Campbell

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