BRENT DOWE, lead singer of one of the harmony trio The Melodians, which also includes Tony Brevette and Trevor McNaughton, died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. Reports are that Dowe, who appeared to be in good health, fell ill at his Hughenden, St. Andrew. One of the most memorable of many hits which he sang lead on was Rivers of Babylon, the adaptation of a Psalm which was included on the soundtrack of the 1972 film Harder They Come.
Dowe also sang lead on the songs Little Nut Tree, Swing And Dine and You Have Caught Me. Brent Dowe made his mark on Jamaican popular music as lead singer with the Melodians, one of the most consistently popular harmony groups of the 1960s and 1970s; he also enjoyed a prosperous solo career.
Born in the hillside community of Point District in north-west Jamaica, Dowe was raised by his mother, who worked for the Coffee Industry Board. They moved to the capital when Dowe was seven, and settled in the west Kingston ghetto of Greenwich Town, a dilapidated neighbourhood squeezed between industrial quarters and the main railway line; he started singing at an early age during church services and at school, where he was known as "Porky" because of his chubbiness.
In 1962, Dowe became friendly with the tenor singer Tony Brevett, a downtown street tough based in a slum yard at Salt Lane and nephew of Lloyd Brevett, bass player with the Skatalites. Tony Brevett had been singing informally with Bob Marley and another youth, George Allison, at a local youth club, but, after Marley began recording as a soloist, Brevett formed a new group with another tenor, Trevor McNaughton, and a baritone, Bradfield Brown. When Dowe joined the group, the sound was impressive, as his clear, deeper tones contrasted nicely with the higher, tremulous voice of Tony Brevett.
The Melodians made their recording début for Prince Buster, but the songs were retained solely for sound-system airplay; then, after Brown left the group, some of their best material was co-written by a silent partner, Renford Cogle. The handful of Melodians discs issued by Studio One in 1966 failed to make an impact so, the following year, the group moved to higher wages at the rival Treasure Isle. There they became one of the leading groups of the day, through hits such as "You Have Caught Me", their first Jamaican No 1, "You Don't Need Me", "I Will Get Along", "Expo 67" and "Come On Little Girl".