IMPRESARIO Michael Barnett, co-conceptualiser of the Inseparable: Dennis Brown and Friends concert series, has fond memories of its headliner whom he describes as “one of the greatest human beings God placed on planet Earth”.
“He was the Boy Wonder who later became the Crown Prince of Reggae. He always had a special place in the hearts of people who he came across and who were touched by his songs. He was charismatic and could defuse any heated situation with his infectious smile,” Barnett told the Jamaica Observer.
Today, Brown — whose recording career started in 1968 — would have celebrated his 65th birthday. He died in July 1999.
Barnett remembers the discussions that led to the successful shows which took its name from the singer's 1987 album.
“That show was discussed with him 10 years before. I was living in New York and actually brought him to New York for him to see the response to him. I wanted to do a show then but it never happened... I had a record shop and in my record shop was an 8 ft x 6ft painting of him that was amazing. He asked if I could give him the painting. And I said, 'Anytime you do a show for me, I'll give you the painting',” he recalled.
According to the promoter, he and business partner Kenric Davis, wanted to introduce a unique concept for Inseparable.
“We wanted him to open the show, then bring on a guest or two. The guest would perform, he then would join the guest. The headliner would then close the show,” said Barnett. “Normally, headliners would close the show. I got the idea from watching a Barry Manilow special on television.”
The inaugural concert was set for Saturday May 28, 1988 at the Oceana Hotel in downtown Kingston. Brown was supposed to arrive in the island from England the Wednesday before.
“We wanted him to come early to do some radio interviews and stuff. We went to the airport to pick him up on the Wednesday; no Dennis. Thursday, no Dennis. Friday; no Dennis. Saturday morning; no Dennis. About two o'clock he came, apparently he re-routed himself from England to New York, then took an American Airlines flight to Jamaica. He called me to say he's on the last flight from New York and we went to get him at the airport... We were fuming and when he stepped out of the airplane and saw us on the tarmac and smiled, everything melted away,” said Barnett.
The singer was then whisked away to Radio Jamaica on Lyndhurst Road to do an interview. When he came off air, the station's car park was packed with fans trying to get a glimpse of him.
“I saw a bus stop and a male passenger came through the window and ran into the radio station's car park to see Dennis Brown. He couldn't wait to come through the bus door,” he said.
The inaugural Inseparable: Dennis Brown and Friends was a success. Lieutenant Stitchie, and Ebony were also on the bill.
“Dennis crushed it; he was in a tuxedo. Ebony was in evening gowns, and Stitchie was in a tuxedo. Even the backing band, Lloyd Parks and We The People were in tuxedos. We dressed up the music,” Barnett explained. “I also presented Dennis with the painting of himself on canvas that he saw in the record shop a decade before.”
Twelve Inseparable concerts were held in the next four years. The last took place in Mandeville on January 30, 1992.
Barnett last saw Dennis Brown six months before his death.
“Cigarette Company of Jamaica hired me to do a show in August '99 called Bustin' Loose with Busta Rhymes. I wanted Dennis on the show, and Beenie Man. In March, he went to tour in Brazil and when he came back, I called him and said: 'Dennis, I have a deposit for you, we're gonna do two shows — one in Kingston at Cinema II and one in Ocho Rios at the cruise ship pier'. He came by in the night in March and he had a big towel around his neck and stuffed the ends in his shirt. He looked under the weather and he sounded a little way. He said it looked like he caught the flu in Brazil. So I asked why did he come in the night air? He said he would collect the cheque and go straight home to his bed. That's the last time I saw him,” said Barnett.
Barnett is a disc jockey at Kool 97 FM and co-conceptualiser of Heineken Startime, another popular live series on which Brown appeared regularly. He said fans of the singer are still loyal to him.
“He was the singer's singer as 90 per cent of the Jamaican singers used Dennis Brown's voice to learn how to sing. He had a teaching voice. I believe Dennis Brown is the most loved Jamaican artiste by Jamaicans,” he added.
In 2011, Brown was posthumously recognised with an Order of Distinction (Commander Rank) for his contribution to Jamaican music.
Interred in the National Heroes' Park in Kingston, he has more than 70 albums to his credit.
Shaneil salutes black beauty
Shaneil salutes black beauty
SINGER Shaneil Muir is gearing up for the release of her latest single Black is Beautiful, just in time for Black History Month which is commemorated each February.
Black is Beautiful is produced by College Boiz and is scheduled to be released on Friday by UK-based 365 Records Limited.
“I'm a very observant person, and when it comes to writing music I like to ensure that I relate effectively to everyone who listens. Over the past few years, where everyone's so outspoken and everybody has access to social media, I see more prejudice and racism than I've ever seen,” said Muir.