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Dennis Emanuel Brown is loved second-to-none in reggae. There really is no-one who could ever take his place.

At the age of 11, Dennis Brown came to the attention of Coxsone Dodd, the legendary owner of Jamaica's Studio One record label. His first record, a cover of the doo-wop hit "No Man Is An Island", revealed him to have a talent mature far beyond his years. Listen to it today and you'll find that the phrasing and tones are still recognisably that of the the mature reggae star. "No Man Is An Island" was an immediate hit in Jamaica, and led to his first album, of the same title in 1970.

His second album, "If I Follow My Heart", also for Studio One, was named after his second major hit. Dennis Brown has arrived, but youth talents are common in reggae; he was really yet to prove himself.

Dennis' voice strengthened with use, and a series of well-remembered singles for Lloyd Daley's Matador label increased his reputation: "Things In Life" and "Baby Don't Do It" among them. Dennis' next move was to Randy's, where he cut the singles "Cheater" and "Meet Me At The Corner" and first encountered Errol 'T' Thompson, later to play an important part in his career.

Sessions with Derrick Harriott for his Move & Groove label resulted in several Jamaican hit singles and the 1973 album "Super Reggae & Soul Hits". A satisfying mixture or covers and original material, it revealed Dennis as a great writer with songs like "Concentration" and "He Can't Spell". At the time, he also cut singles with Joe Gibbs (including the original version of "Money In My Pocket") and Lee Perry (unissued). Dennis was a respected youth in Jamaica, but a new relationship was to become the one that lifted him to reggae superstardom.

Producer Winston "Niney The Observer" Holness had been in the music business for half a decade with varying success. His single "Blood & Fire" was the biggest selling record in Jamaica in 1971, but he had failed to follow it up effectively and was looking for a voice capable of matching his raw, unique rhythms and had been working as a 'fixer' for other producers in Jamaica. It was he who had brought Dennis to Joe Gibbs for "Money In My Pocket", and Niney eventually persuaded Dennis to record directly for him. The results were sensational. A selection of singles between 1974-76 made Dennis and Niney the voice/producer team of the era: "Westbound Train", "Cassandra", "Moving Away", "Yagga Yagga", "Ride On Ride On" (with Big Youth), "Wolf & Leopards", "Here I Come", "Silver Words" ... the list is incredible. The album "Just Dennis" remains available today, as does 1977's "Wolf & Leopards". While Bob Marley had the commercial end of reggae sewn up, Dennis' voice was the most popular with the roots sound systems.

In the mid-seventies Dennis renewed his acquaintance with Errol T, who was now Joe Gibbs' production partner. With a different, more modern sound than Niney's, they began to put together an equally impressive catalogue of material with Dennis, including the albums "Visions" (1976), Joseph's Coat of Many Colours (1978), "The Best Of" (1976), "Words of Wisdom" (1979), "Spellbound" (1970), "The Best Of Volume 2" (1982), "Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" (1982), and "Love's Gotta Hold On Me" (1984). In 1978, Dennis' recut of "Money In My Pocket" became a huge UK hit, and in 1983 a further hit arrived with "Love Has Found Its Way".

At the end of the seventies, Dennis bought a house in London and began to spend as much time there as in Jamaica. He became heavily involved with the UK's Lover's Rock scene through his DEB Music label, and he gradually began to record less in Jamaica. Notable exceptions were the hit singles like "To The Foundation", cut in 1979 with producer Gussie Clarke, the massive single "Revolution" for Sly & Robbie, and a couple of tracks for Tads, "Satisfaction Feeling" and "Wild Fire" (with John Holt). Still albums arrived at a rate of more than one a year, amongst them "Judge Not" with Gregory Isaacs for Gussie Clarke, and the excellent "Slow Down" (1985) for Prince Jammy.

Dennis' biggest impact on the second half of the eighties came with the all-digital album for King Jammy, "The Exit" (aka "History") and although he continued to tour, it seemed that he was gradually allowing his career to wind down. 1988's "Inseparable" sold well, as did 1989's "Good Vibrations", but neither were among his best works. An indication of what was to follow came with "Death Before Dishonour", a searing modern roots single for Tappa Zukie, although at the time it seemed an isolated return to his real form.

Finally, in the summer of 1989, the news hit that Dennis was recording with Gussie Clarke at Music Works, Gussie's new technological epicentre of digital reggae. The first result was "Big All Around", a monstrous duet between Dennis and Gregory Isaacs and a massive hit in all of reggae's capital cities. The duet album, "No Contest" was a massive seller, and everyone held their breath for Dennis' solo album, which at last arrived in 1990 - "Unchallenged". The title said it all: this was Dennis at the top of his form, powering through tracks that stand as his best collection for years.

Back at grass-roots level, Dennis Brown was once again the Sound Systems' favourite artist: exclusive dub plates bearing his voice were now going for hundreds of dollars, and Dennis looked to rule the nineties. True to his art as ever, Dennis Emanuel Brown had shown again that he was indeed the 'Crown Prince of Reggae'.


Finding Reggae
Lucky Philip Dube was born on the 3rd of August in 1964. After a few failed pregnancy attempts by his mother Sarah, Lucky came into the world. Giving birth to a boy was considered a blessing and his mother considered his birth so fortunate that she aptly named him 'Lucky'. His birth took place on a small farm outside the town of Ermelo, a dry, unspectacular area some 150 kilometers west of Johannesburg. Born into a single parent family, times were tough for a black boy born into poverty and with the Group Areas Act and the Pass Laws of the time, many families relocation was restricted, therefore children grew up not knowing their fathers at all, as they were often forced to leave home to find work in the cities.

Lucky's parents had separated before he was born. His mother was the only bread winner in the family and was forced to relocate to find work, leaving Lucky and his siblings Thandi and Patrick to be cared for by his grandmother. Unfortunately for Sarah, work was scarce and survival became her objective as she took a job as a domestic worker, barely able to send money home for her children.

With a father who drank heavily, Lucky is somewhat relieved he did not get to know his father when he was younger as he is certain it would have influenced him and swayed his career. To this day Lucky has only been drunk once, as a young boy, after being tricked at a party. So awful was the experience that he now swears off alcohol, cigarettes and drugs completely.

Lucky began working at the age most western children enter school. He worked for a few years before joining a school himself out of neccessity to provide for the family. He began by working in gardens around the white suburbs in the town.

Although a clearly under-priviledged child and despite being taught in Afrikaans, Lucky excelled at school and although his situation at home was dire, he started finding a new reason to attend school - music. As part of the choir, he was a natural performer and when the choir master walked out of their practise one day, Lucky was forced to take on the role as the choir leader, even being placed third in an inter-school competition, something that had never happened to the choir before. His popularity amongst his teachers and peers grew dramatically and Lucky was now finding school to a safe haven in his life.

By chance one day Lucky stumbled across some musical instruments at school in a cupboard and his curiosity was piqued. He and some friends decided to start experimenting and before long they had arranged times to meet and 'borrow' the instruments. The formed what was to be Lucky's first official band - The Skyway Band, and genuinely believed that they would find stardom. Unfortunately that all fell apart when they were discovered playing the instruments by a teacher who locked the instruments away from then on.

But Lucky was now 18 years old, and although still in school due to starting late, he had found his passion.

Early Recordings
1982 was to become an important year in Lucky's life. He was 18 years old and still in school. Nevertheless, it was then he joined his first real band. His cousin Richard Siluma had formed a band called 'The Love Brothers' and when Lucky arrived in Newcastle where Richard lived, he wanted to join them. Lucky had already formed a reputation as a strong singer and the group allowed him to join. They began touring around the district playing community events and school halls. The Love Brothers played a traditional Zulu music known as Mbaqanga, and this genre was to become Lucky's future for a while. It is also one of the most influencial musical styles in South Africa, blending uptempo rhythms with social commentary. Two of the more famous Mbaqanga groups are the Soul Brothers and Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens - both musical ambassadors for South Africa.

Richard Siluma had taken a job packing the warehouse of the record company Teal Records. Through hard work he moved through the ranks from driver to sales representative to eventually record producer. He then turned his attention towards the band he had originally formed - The Love Brothers.

They got together with the view to record and Lucky signed with Teal Records, which later became Gallo Record Comany - which to this day is still his record company.

The album was recorded during Lucky's school holidays and Lucky made his first trip to Johannesburg to begin working on it. The album, although recorded with The Love Brothers, was released as 'Lucky Dube and The Supersoul' and Richard produced the record. Lucky was the lead singer but did not write any of the material on that first record.

The second album came soon afterwads and Lucky was far more involved with the writing. It lead to a increase in record sales and Lucky began to earn some decent money. By his third album he could actually afford to purchase some instruments as well as a recording desk. Already the sales figures were beginning to hit gold status and people had begun to notice him. His mother showed great concerns for the uncertainty of a life made of music and Lucky swore to complete school. He also made the important decision to learn English in order to handle the record executives and media with more confidence. His fourth album was now released and Lucky was beginning to save some money, looking to the prospect of moving out of home.

Moving into Reggae
It was around the time of his fifth Mbaqanga album that Lucky met Dave Segal. Dave was to become his long-time engineer, recording every one of Lucky's albums in the future. Dave and Lucky formed a working relationship that has never been rivalled. Richard had started concentrating solely on Lucky's career and dropped the 'Supersoul' element of the name. All albums were now being recorded purely as 'Lucky Dube' and all the focus was going Lucky's way.

His performances were getting more recognition as well. His dance moves were really something spectacular and his ability to get the crowd going made him a sought-after performer.

One of the highlights of Lucky's performances seemed to be the reggae tracks he would perform - 'Reggae Man' and 'City Life'. Initially only slowly introducing them into a set, it soon became apparent that the crowds were more responsive to these songs. Lucky and Richard decided it was time to record a full album of reggae songs and judge the response to that. What started there set Lucky's career as we all know it in motion.

Lucky had been listening to much reggae at the time. The lyrics particularly intrigued him as they were social messages aimed at the struggle of the black man, whilst still maintaining a commercial sound. Lucky felt it was the perfect medium for the South African political situation.

The team that was Lucky, Richard and Dave went into the studio and began work on their first reggae release - 4 tracks later, the mini-album 'Rastas Never Die' was ready. Lucky had played all the instruments himself with only Dave using studio effects to back him up. The record was released - and it completely bombed, only selling on average 4 000 units when his Mbaqanga records were peaking around 30 000 units.

The record company was not happy about the reggae idea to begin with, and now they had even more reason to keep Lucky singing in his familiar style. However, Lucky was not discouraged. He continued to perform his reggae tracks, and started writing more, slowly introducing them to his live sets. What happened was the public slowly started to associate him more and more with this new sound, and audiences that understood English grew particularly fond of the reggae songs.

It was time for Lucky to try again. The record company were adamant that he should record another Zulu record but when he emerged from the studio, his second reggae album was complete. The album was called 'Think About The Children' and went on to be the breakthrough record that would establish him as one of South Africa's biggest stars. The record continues to sell to this day and has reached more than platinum status in South Africa alone.

And that was how the legend Lucky Dube was created. Through his countless sensational reggae albums, Lucky went on to build himself into one of the biggest names in South African music.

 

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