Throwback Thursdays: Dennis Brown, Maxi Priest + More on “Letterman”

Words by DJ Autograph

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Long-time Throwback Thursdays contributor and selector extraordinaire DJ Autograph is back in the saddle this week, with a find from deep in the vaults of late-night TV.

Searching for Dennis Brown videos on the Internet one day, I stumbled upon an amazing find from 1992: A musical performance on Late Night with David Letterman, featuring dancehall and reggae legends Dennis Brown, Maxi Priest, Shinehead and Little Lenny performing Bob Marley’s “One Love.” (Late Night was Letterman’s original 12:30 show on NBC, before moving to CBS and 11:30). The four each put their own twist on this classic tune, with Shinehead and Little Lenny bringing additional verses.

Following Letterman’s introduction, all four begin singing the famous chorus in unison. Maxi Priest then takes over singing the first verse, accompanied by Little Lenny’s “ribbit” adlibs in the background. The second verse belongs to the Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Brown, who delivers in smooth signature style again, also accompanied adlibs from Little Lenny (he may actually be the best part of this performance come to think of it—we’ll get to that later).

Shinehead takes center stage after the next chorus, delivering a smooth eight-bar rap verse “bigging up” his co-performers and calling for less slackness and more culture. One more chorus passes before Little Lenny steals the show with his dancehall-style verse, jumping around and delivering each line with infectious energy while Maxi, Dennis  and Shinehead prance around in the background.

What’s great to me about this video is the genuine comradery shown amongst the four, all huge stars in their own right at the time—and also Shinehead and Little Lenny’s matching, all-white outfits. It’s the sort of positive performance that I’d like to see replicated in some format by today’s dancehall and reggae stars.