February 1, 1957 is the birthday of the Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Emmanuel Brown. Unfortunately, Jamaica and indeed the world, lost this musical treasure far too soon, as he died on July 1, 1999 at the age of 42. He had been battling a cocaine addiction for several years, which led to both a career and personal slide.
- Brown released some 84 studio albums, seven live productions and countless singles over the course of his 30-year career. Talk about prolific!
- He was one of Jamaica’s first child stars and was often called the Michael Jackson of reggae. He started his career as a nine-year old singer out of Chocomo Lawn in West Kingston and cut his first single, a cover of the Van Dykes’ hit No Man is an Island, at 10.
- His first studio session was with producer and artiste Derrick Harriot, with whom he recorded a song entitled Obsession. Initially, it was not released, but Harriott was encouraged by his talent and gave him the Van Dykes song to rehearse for recording.
- Brown’s first two albums, No Man Is An Island and If I Follow My Heart, were recorded over a two-day period, under the guidance of legendary producer Clement ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd. He began working with Dodd after Harriot had to leave the island before they could work together again.
- He released six or seven albums per year at the peak of his popularity.
- His first international hit was Money In My Pocket, which hit the UK top 10 in 1977.
- He received the moniker ‘Crown Prince of Reggae’ from none other than the king himself, Bob Marley, who declared Brown his favourite singer and successor.
- Brown is believed to have fathered 12 children, five of them with his estranged wife Yvonne.
- He was well known for his kindness, choosing to live simply while giving away money and possessions to the less fortunate.