The only reggae singer apart from Bob Marley whose fame and ubiquity meant he was known by his first name alone… “Dennis.”
Dennis Emmanuel Brown had a massive UK hit with this tune in the summer of 1979, which made No.14 in the pop charts.
It had been all over pirate radio for a year by then, the re-recorded 12-inch “discomix” with Prince Mohammed’s toast Cool Runnings remaining one of the all-time great versions, even surpassing the 1974 original by the legendary toaster Big Youth on the B-side of Dennis’s original version for Joe Gibbs.
I was lucky enough to see Dennis live when he moved to London in 1977, performing with Big Youth at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, and in the summer of 1984, when Reggae Sunsplash left Jamaica for the first time and came to Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park football ground.
Home-grown reggae band Aswad topped the bill on what I remember as a glorious sunny day with about 100,000 people sitting and standing in the stadium, wreathed in a sweet aroma, but just about everyone had come to see ‘Dennis’.
The rest of an amazing all-star line-up included Black Uhuru, Sly & Robbie, The Skatalites, Prince Buster, Leroy Sibbles and Nigerian juju legend King Sunny Ade. Not bad for a tenner.
Dennis didn’t disappoint, performing in a suitably messianic all-white outfit with waist-length locks. It was a huge loss when the Crown Prince of Reggae as he was universally known died suddenly in 1999, aged only 42. There’s a blue plaque at his former home in Harlesden.