Dennis Brown interview w/Roger Steffens, L.A. 11 Nov 82 Part Two [After a lengthy digression on the beliefs of the 12 Tribes movement of Rasta...]
DB: We don't come to fight skin, flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness in high and low places.
RS: Does that mean you're a revolutionary?
DB: Not necessarily so. I sing a lot about love. Love represents Jah. Jah is love, or God, whichever way you might accept it.
RS: Occassionally we get a militant person who calls the Reggae Beat radio show here in L.A. - this has happened more than once - and says, "Why do you play love songs? Reggae means militancy. Reggae means revolution, and love songs have absolutely no place on your show, and you shouldn't play them again. What's wrong with you, you're being counter revolutionary!" What would you say if they told that to you?
DB: They're crazy! You know, they have a one track mind, their mind, or their taste for music is very narrow. They're narrow-minded. I think I have a more wider scope for music, I have more taste for music. And I try and accept all kind of music, and I love ballads, funk, soul, jazz, even calypso music I enjoy sometimes.
DB: Sparrow, yeah mon, he's the greatest.
RS: What about African music, are you listening to any of that these days?
DB: Well, I heard of Sunny Ade, and looks as if his music is gonna be big on a global level, because I was in London the other day and some people asked me to review the album. And even though this type of music was sort of new, I tried to accept it.
RS: What did you like about it?
DB: The flavoring, the various instruments and all that. Because his type of African music is something that is very much new, comparing to older records that has been done there, it is more westernized, with all that string instuments, keyboards, clavinet and synthesizer and all that. So it's good.
RS: Where would you like to be two years from now?
DB: (laughs) In Africa.
DB: If I can.
RS:...Ethiopia, I presume, is where you want to go.
DB: True. I want to be among the brothers there.
RS: Have you ever been to Africa?
DB: No, not yet...But now I'm getting that spiritual motivation to visit Africa. And I think that that should be inspiring, so I'm looking forward to that.
RS: Will you bring your family.
RS: How many kids do you have?
DB: Seven. [A brief discussion followed of how to help bring children's musical talents to fruition. Dennis recommended a tutor, especially for reading music.]
RS: Can you read music?
RS: But you started so young, why didn't you ever learn to read music?
DB: Well, until this very day, I'm still learning. You see, that is it with music, you never stop learning. Every day you learn something new. You keep learning, you keep advancing, and you never stop learning, don't care how great a musician might be, or a singer or artist.
RS: Robbie Shakespeare said when he went to school he could read and write music, but he couldn't play. When he grew up, he started to play, but now he can't read or write.
RS: I'm not a musician, so how does that happen? How do you forget that stuff?
DB: Well, you see, it's simply because you might be away from that environment, you see, you are not constantly -
RS: - it's not like riding a bicycle, then, you never forget?
DB: Or like driving a car. It's very much different. But when you have to deal with notes, and to be able to make a full definition of what a sound is - if you are not around that environment, then you'll find you lose that feel, that momentum, you lose all that.
RS: Do you come from a musical family?
DB: Not really. I'd say a more drama - my father is more a dramatist. [Dennis speaks about the "Come Home to Jamaica" current 1982 tv ad campaign for the Jamaica Tourist Board, which features an old man with a long white beard, walking a donkey, and surrounded by children.] Yeah, that's my father, Arthur Brown.
RS: I understand he's a famous Jamaican actor.
DB: Yeah, he does drama shows. He used to be involved in pantomime, musical shows.
RS: Did he want you to be an actor?
DB: No, well I think that is where some of my musical influence came from. Because I used to go and watch him rehearsing for pantomime, and I have adopted some of those priciples, like try to be on time, learn your script, how he approach it, etc. But all the little things that go with it to make it professional. Because that is it now, you see, to be a successful musician now, a singer or an artist, you have to deal with it on a professional level. You can't be dealing with it on a secondary level or a mediocre level where you'd be hustling and all that.
RS: What do you miss most when you're touring?
DB: My kids. Miss my kids. I love them.
RS: And when you're home with the kids, what do you miss most about being on the road?
DB: (big long laugh) RS: You don't have to answer that.
DB: I don't. We'll pass that.
(c) 1999 Roger
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