Wichita Lineman makes Kingston callThursday, October 21, 2021
BY BRIAN BONITTO
The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk continues its month-long feature titled 'Cover Me Good'. It will look at songs covered by Jamaican artistes which became hits.
THREE years into his teens, Dennis Brown was already an act to watch. In 1972, singer/producer Derrick Harriott had an assignment for the boy wonder which laid the foundation for his illustrious career.
Brown covered American country singer Glen Campbell's hit song Wichita Lineman. Produced by Harriott, his version was also a commercial success.
“He really did a good rendition of Wichita Lineman. His version is a classic. He was so small, yet he surprised a lot of persons in the business when he delivered those vocals,” Harriott, 82, told the Jamaica Observer.
Written by Jimmy Webb, Campbell recorded Wichita Lineman in 1968. His version was a Billboard Hot Country Songs number one and is named among Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in January 1969.
Referred to as “the first existential country song”, Wichita Lineman tells the story of a telephone technician rectifying line problems and sharing his thoughts on some of what he overhears while on the pole.
Harriott also did backing vocals on Brown's version with Bunny Brown of the Chosen Few. The Now Generation Band, which included drummer Mikey “Boo” Richards and bass player Val Douglas, were the session players.
Brown's version of Wichita Lineman was part of the album, Lips of Wine: The Roots of Dennis Brown.
Harriott was the first producer to record Brown. That came in 1968 with the song, Lips of Wine.
Four years later, he said there were plenty of top singers to choose from to record a cover of Wichita Lineman. But he knew the 15-year-old prodigy was “special” and equal to the task.
“I knew and saw the talent in him. He was a spectacular singer who could pronounce his words with a smooth finish. It was really a pleasure working with him on that single,” Harriott said.
Brown, who later distinguished himself as reggae's greatest singer, died in July 1999. He was 42.
Campbell, who died in August 2017 of Alzheimer's disease at age 81, had other hits, including Rhinestone Cowboy, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, and Galveston, which are also popular in Jamaica.