Linton Kwesi Johnson  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Linton Kwesi Johnson (aka LKJ) (born 24 August 1952, Chapelton, Jamaica) is a British based dub poet. He became the second living poet to be published in the Penguin Classics series. [1] His poetry involves the recitation of his own verse in Jamaican Patois over dub-reggae, usually written in collaboration with renowned British reggae producer/artist Dennis Bovell.

Johnson attended Goldsmiths College in New Cross, London, which currently holds his personal papers in its archives; in 2004 he became an Honorary Visiting Professor of Middlesex University in London. In 2005 he was awarded a silver Musgrave medal from the Institute of Jamaica for distinguished eminence in the field of poetry.

While still at school he joined the British Black Panther Movement, helped to organize a poetry workshop within the movement and developed his work with Rasta Love, a group of poets and drummers.


Most of Johnson's poetry is political, dealing mainly with the experiences of being an African-Caribbean in Britain. However, he has also written about other issues, such as British foreign policy or the death of anti-racist marcher Blair Peach. His most celebrated poems were written during the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The poems contain graphic accounts of the alleged regular racist police brutality occurring at the time. Johnson's poetry makes clever use of the unstandardised transcription of Jamaican Patois.

Johnson's poems first appeared in the journal Race Today, which published his first collection of poetry, Voices of the Living and the Dead, in 1974. Dread Beat An' Blood, his second collection, was published in 1975 by Bogle-L'Ouverture.

A collection of his poems has been published as Mi Revalueshanary Fren by Penguin Modern Classics. Johnson is one of only three poets to be published by Penguin Modern Classics while still alive.


Johnson's best known albums include his debut Dread Beat An' Blood, Forces of Victory, Bass Culture and Making History. Across these albums are spread classics of the dub poetry school of performance - and, indeed, of reggae itself - such as Dread Beat An' Blood, Sonny's Lettah, Inglan Is A Bitch and Independent Intavenshan. Johnson was a prescient man and his track All Wi Doin Is Defendin accurately predicts the Brixton riot (1981).

Johnson's record label LKJ Records is home to other reggae artists, some of whom made up The Dub Band, with whom Johnson mostly recorded, and other Dub Poets, such as Jean "Binta" Breeze.

Of late, Johnson has only performed live on an intermittent basis, perhaps a result of modern reggae's shift towards more spontaneous and rapid-fire performers of raggamuffin or dancehall.


  • Live in Paris with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band - Wrasse, 2004 (DVD).
  • Live in Paris - Wrasse, 2004.
  • Straight to Inglan's Head - Univeral, 2003.
  • LKJ in Dub: Volume 3 - LKJ Records, 2002.
  • Independent Intavenshan - Island, 1998 (Compilation).
  • More Time - LKJ Records, 1999.
  • LKJ A Cappella Live - LKJ Records, 1996.
  • LKJ Presents - LKJ Records, 1996.
  • LKJ in Dub: Volume 2 - LKJ Records, 1992.
  • Tings An' Times - LKJ Records, 1991.
  • Dub Poetry - Mango, 1985 (Compilation).
  • LKJ Live in Concert with the Dub Band - LKJ Records, 1985.
  • Reggae Greats - Mango, 1984.
  • Making History - Island, 1983.
  • LKJ in Dub - Island, 1980.
  • The Best of Linton Kwesi Johnson - Epic, 1980 (Compilation).
  • Bass Culture - Island, 1980.
  • Forces of Victory - Island, 1979.
  • Dread Beat An' Blood - Island, 1978.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Linton Kwesi Johnson" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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