IN THE TRUNK: Lovers Rock Group, Brown Sugar Remind Us of Our “Black Pride”

brown sugar - black prideThe 70s was a defining moment in UK history; the first generation of Black people born in the UK came of age. They experienced police brutality. “We are being swamped!” was hurled towards them by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This generation found solace through unity, while demanding acceptance from the place they called home.

In comes a new musical form, Lovers Rock. Brown Sugar, a trio, formed in the 70s, and consisted of South London-based Caron Wheeler, Pauline Catlin, and Carol Simm. The group was heralded by Castro Brown (cousin of the late Dennis Brown), who discovered the girls during a singing contest at a nightclub in Streatham.

Brown Sugar‘s debut 1977 single, “I’m In Love With a Dreadlocks,” was the first release on the Lovers Rock record label (founded by Dennis Harris, John Kpiaye and Dennis Bovell). The label was instrumental to the output of Lovers Rock music, a style of reggae that had strong romantic overtones, rich soulful vocals, and positively UK bred. A few months later, their second single “Black Pride” was released and soon became an anthem within the community, touting the message of loving every part of your being. One could say it was a direct contrast to what was happening in the UK at large; 1977 was the Silver Jubilee year, where the country celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s 25th year of accession to the throne.

Caron Wheeler went onto become one part of Afrodiziak with Claudia Fontaine. They mainly did session work for UK pop artists, most notably, Elvis Costello on his Punch the Clock album and tour. Wheeler also sang on Omar‘s early recordings before his debut with Talkin’ Loud. Her mainstream success came during the late 80s through the 90s when she was the lead vocalist of R&B group Soul II Soul. She released two solo albums UK Blak in 1990 and Beach of the War Goddess in 1993. Carol Simms (now known as Kofi) continued a career largely in reggae music, touring the UK frequently performing Brown Sugar’s hits. She worked with Motown on multiple productions and with Disney on their theatrical musicals. Pauline Catlin (now known as Shezekiel), has been working in community arts projects, and continues to sing and write songs.

Check out “Black Pride” below.

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Roseann V. Warren

Founder + Editorial Director at Muphoric Sounds
Roseann V. Warren is a Brooklyn, NY based freelance writer and developmental book editor, who proudly calls herself a member of the Prince army, and believes Hersey's chocolate is a crime. Follow her @webdiva3000