Linton Kwesi Johnson 

For Bernie Grant in memoriam (1934-2000)

Linton Kwesi Johnson was born on 24 August 1952 in Chapelton, a small town in the rural parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. He came to London in 1963, went to Tulse Hill secondary school and later studied Sociology at Goldsmiths' College, University of London. Whilst still at school he joined the Black Panthers, helped to organise a poetry workshop within the movement and developed his work with Rasta Love, a group of poets and drummers. In 1977 he was awarded a C Day Lewis Fellowship, becoming the writer-in-residence for the London Borough of Lambeth for that year. He went on to work as the Library Resources and Education Officer at the Keskidee Centre, the first home of Black theatre and art. Johnson's poems first appeared in the journal Race Today. In 1974 Race Today published his first collection of poetry, Voices of the Living and the Dead. Dread Beat An' Blood, his second collection, was published in 1975 by Bogle-L'Ouverture and was also the title of his first LP, released by Virgin in 1978. That year also saw the release of the film Dread Beat An' Blood, a documentary on Johnson's work. In 1980 Race Today published his third book, Inglan Is A Bitch and there were four more albums on the Island label: Forces of Victory (1979), Bass Culture (1980), LKJ in Dub (1981) and Making History (1983). Linton Kwesi Johnson has been made an Associate Fellow of Warwick University (1985), an Honorary Fellow of Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1987) and received an award at the XIII Premo Internazionale Ultimo Novecento from the city of Pisa for his contribution to poetry and popular music (1990). In 1998 he was awarded the Premio Piero Ciampi Citta di Livorno Concorso Musicale Nazionale in Italy. He has toured the world from Japan to the new South Africa, from Europe to Brazil. His recordings are amongst the top-selling reggae albums in the world and his work has been translated into Italian and German. Unsurprisingly, he is known and revered as the world's first reggae poet.

see books by Linton Kwesi Johnson available at