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Obituary: Rudolph “Garth” Dennis

Reggae music legend, member of Black Uhuru, Wailing Souls, great-grandfather

Jamaican reggae singing legend Rudolph “Garth” Dennis died peacefully while sleeping on December 9, 2021, in Ontario, after experiencing complications due to pneumonia.

Garth was born December 2, 1949 in Kingston, Jamaica. He has the distinct and unique honor of being a member of two of Jamaica’s most loved, classic reggae groups from Waterhouse, Black Uhuru and The Wailing Souls. He wrote, recorded, and toured extensively with both iconic groups. He also had quite a successful solo career. He also had a love for sports. Prior to his music career, he was a cricketer and football player.

He began his musical career in Trench Town at 19 Third Street. He was influenced by his sister, Joan Dennis, who was a member of the duo Andy and Joey, and had a major hit in 1964 with “Wondering Now.” Watching his sister got him interested and excited about the business of music. Another major musical influence was the godfather of reggae music Mr. Joe Higgs, who was also his brother-in-law.

Along with Don Carlos and Duckie Simpson, he formed Black Uhuru in 1972. He left after the group’s early releases and went on to join the Wailing Souls in the mid-1970s. He stayed with the Wailing Souls during their successful Channel One era from 1974 to 1983, a period that established the group as a premier harmony quartet from Jamaica.

He, Carlos and Simpson reunited with Black Uhuru from 1989 to 1994. During that time the group received reggae Grammy nominations for Now in 1990, Iron Storm in 1991, Mystical Truth in 1993, and Strongg in 1994.

In 2015, he released his solo album, Trench Town, 193rd Street. He was quite proud of its 12 songs, especially “Eyes Open,” which was used as inspiration to start a nonprofit organization with Robyn Reimer and Judy Mowatt called Eyes Open Foundation (https://eyesopenfoundation.org/heroes/), which is dedicated to help improve the lives of children everywhere, but especially in Jamaica.

Recently he collaborated with Earl Chinna Smith. It was a full-circle moment, since his 1974 recordings of the single “Slow Coach” featured Smith’s spectacular guitar and was first recorded for Black Uhuru and later re-recorded as a Wailing Soul tune.

In recent years he focused his attention on the future and spent his time grooming the talents of his three sons, who have a group called Blaze Mob.

A member of the Claremont community for the past 22 years, he donated his time and musical talent to several fundraisers for the Claremont Stars girls soccer squad.

He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Jenje Dennis; children Andrea Dennis, Desta Dennis, Shaka Dennis, Gyasi Dennis, Saeed Dennis and Zenani Dennis; grandchildren Krystal, Shannon, Brendon, Bryant, Michael, Joshua, Jason, Katherine, Breanna, Brittney, Addyson, Destanei, Jahsia, Aleaha, Sade, Kyso, Ahyanna, Anaya, Kingston and Kaydon Garthy; great-grandchildren Aniyah, Maliyah and Da’Mari; and siblings: Patricia ‘Faithy’ Walker, Paul Walker, Joan Dennis, Franklyn Dennis and Trevor Dennis.

His discography includes eight albums with Wailing Souls: Wild Suspense (1979), Wailing (1981), Fire House Rock (1981), Soul & Power (1981), Inchpinchers (1982), Baby Come Rock (1983), On The Rocks (1983), and Stranded (1984). His nine albums with Black Uhuru include Now (1991), Now Dub (1991), Iron Storm (1992), Iron Storm Dub (1992), Mystical Truth (1992), Mystical Truth Dub (1993), Live (1993), Strongg (1994), and Strongg Dub (1994).

A memorial service will take place at noon this Saturday, February 26 at the Claremont Center for Spiritual Living, 509 S. College Ave. It will be moderated by Lida Anderson, with a closing prayer from Rev. Miriam Mercado.

Donations to help with funeral expenses are greatly appreciated and may be sent through the Eyes Open Foundation at https://eyesopenfoundation.org/donate/.

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