Linton Kwesi Johnson Biography

Poet(1952–)
Linton Kwesi Johnson is a Jamaican poet, journalist and author based in London. He is widely considered to be the father of reggae dub poetry, a precursor to rap music.

Synopsis

Linton Kwesi Johnson was born on August 24, 1952 in Chapleton, in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. After moving to London and attending the University of London's Goldsmiths College, he began writing politically charged poetry. He is known as the creator of "dub poetry," a blend of reggae music and spoken verse. Johnson is the author of three popular books of poetry, and has worked as a journalist, recording artist and radio host.

Early Life

Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson was born on August 24, 1952, in Chapelton, in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, Linton Kwesi Johnson enrolled at the University of London's Goldsmiths College, and began writing politically charged poetry soon after. His early work was influenced by the turbulence of 1960s and 1970s Great Britain. Rampant racism and restrictive economic policies during this period made living conditions difficult for minorities.

In 1970, while studying at the University of London, Johnson joined the Black Panther movement. He started a poetry workshop, working with other poets and musicians, to address issues of racial equality and social justice. Johnson's dub poetry, with its culturally specific Jamaican patois dialect and reggae backbeat, was a precursor to the spoken word and rap music movements.

Acclaimed Career

Johnson (also known as "LKJ") remains a prolific writer and performer. His three books of poetry, 1974's Voices of the Living and the Dead, 1975's Dread, Beat An' Blood and 1980's Inglan Is A Bitch, gained wide recognition, especially among the politically and social conscious. In 2002, Johnson became the first black poet and the second living poet to be published in the prestigious Penguin Modern Classics series. He also released several albums of his work, including Dread Beat An' Blood and Forces of Victory, both released in the late 1970s; and Bass Culture and Making History, in 1980 and 1984, respectively.

Some of Johnson's distinguished awards include an Honorary Visiting Professorship at Middlesex University in London (2004), and a silver Musgrave medal from the Institute of Jamaica for distinguished eminence in the field of poetry (2005). His work has been translated into several languages and he has toured extensively throughout Europe, Japan, South Africa, Brazil and other nations.

Commenting on why he started to write poetry, Johnson said, "The answer is that my motivation sprang from a visceral need to creatively articulate the experiences of the black youth of my generation, coming of age in a racist society" (The Guardian; March 28, 2012).

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