Linton Kwesi Johnson (b. 1952)
Dread Beat an' Blood (1980) dir. Franco Rosso
Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in 1952 in Chapelton, Jamaica. He moved to London in 1963 to be with his mother and went on to read Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He joined the Black Panther movement in 1970, organising a poetry workshop and working with Rasta Love, a group of poets and percussionists. He joined the Brixton-based Race Today Collective in 1974. His first book of poems, Voices of the Living and the Dead, was published by the Race Today imprint in 1974. His second book, Dread, Beat An' Blood (1975) includes poems written in Jamaican dialect, and was released as a record in 1978.
He is widely regarded as the father of 'dub poetry', a term he coined to describe the way a number of reggae DJs blended music and verse. Johnson maintains that his starting point and focus is poetry, composed before the music, and for this reason he considers the term 'dub poetry' misleading when applied to his own work. He recorded several albums on the Island label, including Forces of Victory (1979), Bass Culture (1980), LKJ In dub (1980) and Making History (1984) and founded his own record label - LKJ - in the mid-1980s, selling over two million records worldwide.
In 1977 he was awarded a C. Day Lewis Fellowship and became Writer in Residence for the London Borough of Lambeth. Race Today published his third book of poetry, Inglan Is a Bitch, in 1980. He worked primarily as a journalist in the 1980s and was a reporter for Channel 4 television's The Bandung File. Tings An' Times: Selected Poems was published in 1991 as both a book and musical recording.
He was made Associate Fellow at Warwick University in 1985 and Honorary Fellow at Wolverhampton Polytechnic in 1987. He is a regular broadcaster on radio and hosted an evening of Caribbean music and culture for BBC Radio 2 in October 2001.
Linton Kwesi Johnson lives in Brixton, South London. A selection of his poetry, entitled Mi Revalueshanary Fren, was published in 2002 as a Penguin Classic edition with an introduction by Fred D'Aguiar. In 2005 he was awarded a Musgrave medal by the Institute of Jamaica, for eminence in the field of poetry.