Garth Dennis, a musician who helped pioneer an electronic and echo-driven style of reggae in the 1980s as a leader of the band Black Uhuru, has died, according to his former band mates. He was 72.
The cause of death was not immediately known. Born Rudolph Dennis in Kingston in 1949, he spent much of his youth in Trench Town - a neighborhood best known as the birthplace of the reggae and rocksteady music.
There, he befriended future reggae greats, including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston. In the late 1960s, Dennis began working with musicians Don Carlos and Duckie Simpson, who would go on to form Black Uhuru.
The group, whose name references the Swahili word for freedom, broke up after their first singles flopped. Dennis spent nearly a decade with the Wailing Souls reggae band before returning to the Black Uhuru in the 1980s. "RIP Rudolph (Garth) Dennis, our boyhood friend and musical brother," the Wailing Souls wrote on their Facebook page. "Our condolences to his wife, his kids, all his family and friends. You're gone but won't be forgotten."
Dennis' return to Black Uhuru came as the group was building a relationship with producers Sly and Robbie, who helped them establish a style of heavy drum and bass lines, sharp guitar riffs and electronic and echo effects. The group won the inaugural Grammy Award for Best Reggae Recording for the album "Anthem" in 1984, and was nominated for an additional seven awards over the course of their career.
Their 1989 album Red ranked as one of Rolling Stone's 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. They won broad acclaim for tracks such as "Sponji Reggae," which appeared on the 1980s sit-com The Cosby Show, and "Shine Eye Gal," featuring the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards.
Black Uhuru toured the world, opening for the Rolling Stones and The Police and even appeared in a Broadway musical.
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