Garth Dennis's soul keeps burning
Garth and Jenje Dennis

On their first date, Garth and Jenje Dennis experienced a bit of culture shock. He thought her name (pronounced gin-jay) was Ginger, while being American with little knowledge of patois, she thought his nickname (Garthie) was Gordy.

"So, on our first time together it was Gordy and Ginger," she said, laughing.

In time, they overcame the linguistic hurdles and got married. When Dennis died at age 72 in December last year, that union was 38 years strong and produced three children and several grandchildren.

On December 2, his birthday, there will be an event marking the first year of his passing at St Andrew Park in Kingston, home of veteran guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith with whom Dennis recorded many songs, including some of his last.

The show features Blaze Mob, the roots-reggae group comprising three of their sons — Shaka "Rock" Dennis, Gyasi "Gong" Dennis, and "King" Saeed Dennis — as well as Smith's Binghistra group and friends of the roots singer who made his name as a member of The Wailing Souls and Black Uhuru.

Dennis died in Los Angeles, where he lived for many years. His family agreed that a commemorative show celebrating the artiste's life should be held in Jamaica, especially Kingston, where he developed as a singer/songwriter in Trench Town and Waterhouse.

"The importance of this is…it's so relevant to who Garth Dennis was. First of all, he was a Rastaman, a real Rastaman, not a poser, not a pretender. He was a humble, loving individual who was an excellent father," Jenje told the Jamaica Observer.

The youngest of six children, Garth Dennis was a brother of former Boys' Town and Melbourne batsman Franklin Dennis, who represented Canada at the 1979 Cricket World Cup.

Another brother, Trevor Dennis, played football for Vere Technical High School and Boys' Town. His sister, Joanna "Joey" Dennis, sang the 1964 ska hit You're Wondering Now.

Although he was a founding member of Black Uhuru in 1972 with Duckie Simpson and Don Carlos, his recording career took off with The Wailing Souls whom he joined in 1974. With Lloyd "Bread" McDonald, Winston "Pipe" Matthews and Buddy Haye, Dennis scored a number of hit songs such as Things And Time, Jah Jah Give us Life, War and Firehouse Rock.

Howard Campbell

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