Reggae artist Dennis Brown began his career at the age of 12, when he recorded the hit single "No Man is an Island
Dennis Brown was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1957. Hailed as a child prodigy and called the “Michael Jackson of reggae,” Brown was just 12 years old when he recorded his first album, No Man is an Island, which included the hit single of the same name. Largely hailed as “reggae’s king” following Bob Marley’s death in 1981, Brown recorded nearly 80 albums over his 30-year career. His addiction to cocaine contributed to his early death on July 1, 1999.
Born as Dennis Emmanuel Brown on February 1, 1957 in Kingston, Jamaica. Dubbed by Bob Marley as his successor and called the “Crown Prince” of reggae, Brown was just 12 years old when he created his first hit single, “No Man is an Island.” He recorded the song at the famed Studio One Records in 1969, as part of his album of the same name.
Brown had begun working toward a music career three years prior to the release of No Man is an Island; at the age of 9, he had begun singing with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. During concerts, the young Brown stood atop beer boxes so that he could be seen. In 1968, He had caught the attention of Studio One sound system operator Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, and soon began recording at the studio, where Bob Marley had carved out his sound several years before. During an amazing two-day session, Brown recorded two albums: No Man Is an Island and If I Follow My Heart.
In 1971, Brown released Super Reggae & Soul Hits, which featured a more mature sound and pushed Brown to stardom. His silky, smooth voice endeared him to listeners and record executives, and as his stature grew, so did the demands from record producers who wanted to tap into his success. Over his nearly 30-year career, Brown churned out 80 albums for some 40 different recording labels. His hits include “Some Like It Hot,” “Cassandra,” “Westbound Train,” “My Time,” “How Could I Leave” and “Ghetto Girl.” His 1972 single, “In My Pocket,” landed among the U.K.’s Top 10.
Brown’s career mirrored the changes in reggae music, from lovers’ rock to dancehall, to digital. With each change, the easy sounding musician seemed to effortlessly transition. In 1994, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for the album Light My Fire.
Following Bob Marley’s death in 1981, many assumed that Brown, who for a time moved to London after signing with A&M Records, would pick up the torch as reggae’s leading man. The result, however, was a mediocre stab at pop reggae and the release of three poorly received albums.
As Brown transitioned into the 1980s, his drug of choice changed from marijuana to cocaine. He was never able to kick his cocaine habit, which contributed to his early death on July 1, 1999 in Kingston, Jamaica. Just two months before he died, Brown, who fathered 13 children during his lifetime, had been arrested in Brazil for possession of drugs.
Despite his personal issues, Brown continued to make the recording studio his second home until his death. During the final year of his life, he released three records, and had been working on a fourth when he passed.