dennis brown dhaima a true

A: Dennis Brown & Dhaima – A true


B: Joe Gibbs & The Professionals – Nu true


Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee in 1949, Sandra Matthews started her singing career in 1962, at the tender age of 12, with an R&B group called The Buttons, which further consisted of Connie Burns. Together they recorded a few songs for the Columbia label, including ‘Shimmy Shimmy Watusi’, ‘Pretty li’l lovelights’ and my personal fave Foot stompin’ USA. Although still very young, Sandra Matthews was close to making a big break, since all recordings were produced by legend to be Carl Davis, who was just starting out at the time but would hit it big with acts like Major Lance, Jackie Wilson, The Chi-Lites and Young Holt Unlimited not long after.

Connie and Sandra were obviously talented. Both get writing credits on the first two songs, while Ronnie Wilkins is credited on the last. Again a sign of the Buttons’ proximity to stardom, because it was Wilkins who wrote chartbusters such as ‘Son of a preacherman‘ and  ‘Love of the common people.’ The latter was sung by a great many artists, with various results, but seriously dominated the European charts in a reggae version: the one Joe Gibbs recorded with Nicky Thomas in 1970.

dhaima and phillip michael thomasIt was that song that firmly established Joe Gibbs as producer. Seven years later – now a painting artist and a proud mom of two – it was Sandra Matthews who found herself recording for Gibbs. Having changed her name to Dhaima when she was living in Los Angeles, she’d first heard about reggae through her job at United Artists. The label released a couple of very strong reissues at the time, including a compilation of The Heptones’ Studio One material and the immaculate Skatalites album called African Roots. Dhaima heard her calling and decided the little island was now her spiritual home. While in Jamaica, Dhaima cut a few very strong roots reggae tunes, including the classic “Ina Jah Children” and ‘A True’ on which she is singing alongside the crown prince of reggae – Dennis Brown.

I doubt it made her nervous to be in the presence of such greatness, since Dhaima always seemed to be close to where it was happening.  She was friends with Bob and Rita Marley and very close to soul singer Betty Wright. Dhaima also gained attention as the partner of Miami Vice actor Philip Michael Thomas, with whom she also had two children.

Riding a bass heavy stepper, augmented by a superb flute part, Dennis Brown and Dhaima complement each other nicely while conveying their message of  peace and consciousness. A True became a hit in both Jamaica and the UK, but was soon enough suppressed by other songs from Dennis Brown, who had a very good year, chart wise. In the dancehall, though, the song was and still is a sure shot killer.

Dhaima gets a writing credit first, then Dennis Brown, which implies she wrote a big part of the song, if not all of it.  Yet, although the song is strong, and Dhaima and Dennis make a great match, she is replaced by different background singers on Dennis Brown’s ‘Words of Wisdom’ album, which came out a year later in 1979. Dhaima still gets a writing credit on the album, but is no longer audible in the mix. Despite the vocal power of mister Brown, I do miss Dhaima on the album take. The flute is still there, though, which makes up for the loss. Well, a little bit anyway..


Label: Joe Gibbs Record Globe (Ja)
Release date: 1978
Riddim: –
Matrix: DSR 6481 / 6482

Posted: 27-06-2015



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