Linton Kwesi Johnson

Contributor: Sharmilla Beezmohun

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 to join his mother and attended Tulse Hill secondary school in south London. Whilst at school he joined the Black Panthers and helped to organise a poetry workshop within the movement. It was there that he first heard The Last Poets, whose work using voice and percussion helped him to develop his own poetry with Rasta Love, a group of poets and drummers formed of fellow Tulse Hill school friends. Around the same time, Johnson was introduced to New Beacon Books, the UK’s first black bookshop and publishers, by Tony Ottey, an Anglican priest who frequented the youth club Johnson attended. It was there he met the Trinidadian writer and activist John La Rose, who was to become a lifelong friend and mentor, as well as Jamaican author Andrew Salkey, one of the earliest supporters of Johnson’s poetry.

            Inspired by the advent of dub music and the DJs talking over these reggae rhythms, particularly Big Youth, Johnson moved towards writing poetry in his own Jamaican English and about his own experiences whilst incorporating reggae rhythms into the verse. In 1973 his first poem ‘Five Nights of Bleeding’ was published. A response to various actual violent incidents involving young blacks in north and south London, the poem also had the hallmark of much of Johnson’s work, chronicling police brutality and making a clear political statement about racism and inequality. A year later, Race Today Publications published his first poetry collection, Voices of the Living and the Dead. Dread Beat An’ Blood, his second collection, was published in 1975 by Bogle-L’Ouverture — which would also be the title of his first LP.

            From 1973 to 1976 Johnson studied sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. During this time he published an article in Race and Class, where he was the first person to use the term ‘dub-lyricist’, in this case describing the practices of the Jamaican DJs at the time: ‘The “dub-lyricist” is the dj turned poet’ (Johnson, ‘Jamaican Rebel Music’ in Race and Class 398). The term ‘dub poetry’ would later become synonymous with the verse not just of Johnson, but also of Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, Michael Smith, Oku Onuora and many others.

During this time Linton Kwesi Johnson worked on a freelance basis for Virgin Records, writing biographies for reggae artists on the label, as well as sleeve notes and copy for adverts. Eventually he suggested he make a record with them. The launch of his record Dread Beat an’ Blood on vinyl in 1978 by Virgin (under the artist’s name of Poet and the Roots) coincided the release of the film Dread Beat An’ Blood, a documentary on Johnson’s work made by filmmaker Franco Rosso and funded by the Arts Council which was shown on British television. As a freelance journalist for the BBC during the same time, Johnson interviewed reggae acts including Matumbi, one of the UK’s first successful home-grown reggae bands, where he met Dennis Bovell — who from 1982 became his collaborator, forming one of the most enduring partnerships in reggae music.

In 1977 Johnson 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 near Kings Cross in London, the first home of black theatre and art and where he first met Bob Marley.

From the mid-1970s Linton Kwesi Johnson was part of the radical Brixton-based Race Today Collective, led by Trinidadian-born activist Darcus Howe. Within that organisation Johnson wrote for Race Today magazine, becoming its Poetry Editor. He also created the organisation Creation for Liberation, which would become the cultural fundraising arm of the collective (although originally envisaged by Johnson as an independent body), putting on live events around the UK.

In 1980 Race Today Publications published Johnson’s 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). LKJ Records Ltd, Johnson’s own record label, was launched in 1981 with a double-sided single by the Jamaican poet Michael Smith, ‘Mi Cyaan Believe It’ and ‘Roots’.

From the mid-1970s and into the 1980s Johnson’s journalism included writing for magazines such as New Musical Express and Black Music and Jazz Review. He also continued to work at the Race Today Collective and with Race Today magazine until the late 1980s. His groundbreaking ten-part radio series on Jamaican popular music, From Mento to Lovers Rock, went out on BBC Radio One in 1982 and was repeated in 1983. This series has formed the basis for most of the subsequent programmes about reggae on both television and radio, as well as for the numerous books that have been published. From 1985-88 Johnson was a researcher/reporter on Channel Four’s The Bandung File. He also toured regularly with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band and produced albums on the LKJ Records label by writer Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze and St Vincent’s jazz trumpeter Shake Keane.

Recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the album LKJ Live in Concert with the Dub Band was released in 1985 and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the USA soon after. This was followed by Tings An’ Times in 1991, also the title of his Selected Poems co-published by Bloodaxe Books and LKJ Music Publishers the same year. In 1992 Linton Kwesi Johnson and Dennis Bovell collaborated to produce LKJ in Dub: Volume Two. In 1996 the album LKJ Presents was released, a compilation of various artists including Linton Kwesi Johnson. This was followed in the same year by LKJ A Cappella Live, a collection of fourteen poems without music. In 1998 Johnson released More Time to celebrate his twentieth anniversary in the recording business. Island also released a two-CD compilation set entitled Independant Intavenshan. In 2002 Linton Kwesi Johnson became only the second living poet and the first black poet to have his work published in Penguin’s Modern Classics series, under the title Mi Revalueshanary Fren: Selected Poems. Four years later the collection would be republished in Penguin’s Modern Poets series and would also be published with his LKJ A Cappella Live CD by Ausable Press in the USA. In 2002 the BBC made a TV programme about LKJ’s poetry, shown in their Profile series on BBC 4, and Johnson also released the CD LKJ in Dub: Volume Three. To mark his twenty-fifth anniversary as a reggae recording artist, Linton Kwesi Johnson released a CD and, for the first time ever, a DVD in 2004 entitled LKJ Live in Paris with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band.

Alongside his poetry and recording career, Linton Kwesi Johnson is also well known and respected for his political activism. Since his early involvement with the Black Panthers in the early 1970s, Johnson has been part of many groundbreaking black political campaigns in the UK. These include: the Black Parents Movement (organising from the mid 1970s); the New Cross Massacre Action Committee of 1981, which was formed to fight for justice after fourteen black teenagers were killed in an arson attack on a party; being one of the founding committee members of the International Book Fairs of Radical Black and Third World Books, which ran from 1982 to 1995; and being an active campaigner for European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice in the early to mid-1990s. In 1991, John La Rose and his comrades, amongst them Linton Kwesi Johnson, founded the George Padmore Institute, an archive, library and educational research centre housing materials relating to the black community of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Britain and continental Europe. In 2012 Johnson set up a charity in Jamaica to help underprivileged schoolchildren, the LKJ Charitable Educational Trust.

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. In 2003 Johnson was bestowed with an honorary fellowship from his alma mater, Goldsmiths College, then part of the University of London. In 2004 LKJ became an Honorary Visiting Professor of Middlesex University in London. In 2006 he received a Silver Musgrave Medal from the Institute of Jamaica for ‘eminence in the field of poetry’. In 2012 Linton Kwesi Johnson was awarded the Golden PEN award by English PEN for his lifetime achievement in poetry as well as for his activism. His recordings are amongst the top-selling reggae albums in the world and his work has been translated into Italian and German.

Material by Linton Kwesi Johnson

Books by Linton Kwesi Johnson

Die Neue Wortordnung (New Word Hawdah). German Edition. Trans. Claus-Ulrich Viol. Bochum, Germany: Agentur Machtwort, 2002. ISBN 3980794601.

Dread Beat An’ Blood. London: Bogle-L’Ouverture Publications, 1975. ISBN 904521060.

—. German edition. Trans. Ulli Güldner. Neustadt: Buchverlag Michael Schwinn, 1984. ISBN 904521060.

Dread Beat an Blood and Inglan Is A Bitch. Italian Edition. Trans. Gianni Galli . Rome: Stampa Alternativa, 1982.

Facendo La Storia; E Altre Poesie. Italian Edition. Trans. Gianni Galli. Italy: ETS Editrice, 1989. ISBN 887741481.

Inglan Is A Bitch. London: Race Today Publications, 1980. ISBN 0950349828.

—. Swiss-German edition. Trans. Angela Schader. C.1991. No publications details available.

Inglan Is A Bitch and Voices of the Living and The Dead. German Edition. Trans. Almuth Carstens. Berlin: Edition Kalter Schweiss, 1984. ISBN 39924001022.

Linton Kwesi Johnson. Italian edition of poems. Trans. Gianni Galli. Genova, Italy: Bloko Teatro Verdi, 1988.

Mi Revalueshanary Fren. US edition. Introduced by Russell Banks. Keene, NY: Ausable Press, 2006. ISBN 1931337292.

Mi Revalueshanary Fren: Selected Poems. Introduced by Fred D’Aguiar. London: Penguin Modern Classics, 2002. ISBN 0141186984.

Selected Poems. London: Penguin, 2006. ISBN-13 9780141025018.

Tings An’ Times. Newcastle upon Tyne and London: Bloodaxe Books and LKJ Music Publishers, 1991. ISBN 1852241624.

Voices of the Living and the Dead. London: Race Today Publications, 1974. ISBN 0950349879.


Articles etc by Linton Kwesi Johnson

‘Black Beard in Profile’. Race Today Review Dec. 1981/Jan. 1982: 9-14.

Book Review of Puerto Rican Obituary by Pedro Pietri. Race and Class XVI.4 (Apr. 1975): 442-445.

Book Review of Invisible Poets by Joan R Sherman and Latin American Revolutionary Poetry edited with an introduction by Robert Marquez. Race and Class XVII.1 (Summer 1975): 85-87.

Book Reviews of Echo by Orlando Wong; At School Today by Accabre Huntley; Writing in Cuba Since the Revolution edited by Andrew Salkey; and Poems of Succession by Martin Carter. Race Today Nov./Dec. 1977: 164-167.

Book Review of Joey Tyson by Andrew Salkey. Race Today Feb. 1975: 46.

Book Review of Reggae, a People’s Music by Rolston Kallyndyr and Henderson Dalrymple. Race Today Oct.-Nov. 1973: 313.

Book Review of You Better Believe It – Black Verse in English ed. Paul Breman. Race Today Jan. 1974: 24-25.

‘Come We Goh Dung Deh’ and ‘Youtman’ poems and record review. Melanthika: An Anthology of Pan-Caribbean Writing. Birmingham: LWM Publications, 1977. 47-50. ISBN 0905393015.

‘Cutting edge of dub’. The Guardian Review 27 Aug 2005: 7.

Comment piece about ‘The Black Explosion in Schools’ article. Race Today Mar. 1974: 81.

Interview with Caryl Phillips. Race Today Review 1987: 6-9.

Introduction. Race Today Review 1986: 1.

Introduction. Race Today Review 1987: 1.

‘Jamaica Uncovered’. The Guardian Friday Review 28 Feb. 2003: 9.

‘Jamaican Rebel Music’. Race and Class VXII.4 (1976):

Memoir on John La Rose. Foundations of a Movement. London: John La Rose Tribute Committee, 1991: 80-82. ISBN 1873201079.

Play review of The Death of a Black Man by Alfred Fagon. Race Today Aug. 1975: 190.

Play review of The Swamp Dwellers by Wole Soyinka. Race Today Sept. 1975: 214-215.

‘The Politics of the Lyrics of Reggae Music’. The Black Liberator (Jan. 1977): 363-373. Note: this article is attributed to sic. Linton Kwise Johnson.

Review of ‘Bob Marley and the Reggae International – Exodus’. Race Today June/July 1977: 92-94.

Review of Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Race Today Dec. 1986: 21.

Review of ‘International Reggae: Toots and the Maytals at the Lyceum Strand 10 March 1976’. Race Today Apr. 1976: 93-94.

Review of ‘Kingston is a Long Way from New Orleans – A Review of Ice on Fire, the Mighty Diamonds new album’. Race Today Apr./May 1977: 70-71.

Review of Max Romeo’s Reconstruction and Third World’s 96 Degrees in the Shade. Race Today Jan. 1978: 16-17.

Review of Rasta in a Babylon – A Documentary Film by Howard Johnson. Race Today Jan. 1979: 20-21.

Review of Reggae: Deep Roots by Howard Johnson and Jim Pines and Reggae International ed. Stephen David and Peter Simon. Race Today Review 1984: 41.

Review of Roots and Rock: The Marley Enigma. Race Today Oct. 1975: 237-238.

Review of Third World live at the Rainbow Theatre. Race Today Jan. 1979: 22.

Response to Roots film. Race and Class XIX.1 (Summer 1977): 83-84.

‘Speaking in tongues’. A review of the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. The Guardian 19 Apr. 1996.

‘Writing Reggae. Poetry, Politics and Popular Culture’. Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings 6.1 (2006): 2-18. ISBN 0954075196.


Poems by Linton Kwesi Johnson included in Magazines, Journals and Books – A Selection

‘All Wi Doin is Defendin’. Sparks of Fire: Blake in a New Age. Ed. James Bogan and Fred Goss. Richmond, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1982. 229-30. ISBN 0913028908.

‘Bass Culture’, ‘Five Nights of Bleeding’ and ‘Reggae Sounds’. Wheel and Come Again: An Anthology of Reggae Poetry. Ed. Kwame Dawes. Frederickton: Goose Lane, 1998. 108-113. ISBN 0864921993.

‘Bass Culture’, ‘Inglan is a Bitch’, ‘Mekkin History’ and ‘Reality Poem’. The New Poetry. Ed. Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1993. 183-189. ISBN 1852242442.

‘Bass Culture’ and ‘Reggae Fi Dada’. The Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse in English. Ed. Paula Burnett. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986. 75-78; 338. ISBN 0140585117.

‘Beacon of Hope’. The Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry. Ed. Ian McDonald and Stewart Brown. Oxford: Heinemann, 1992. 110-111. ISBN 0435988174.

‘Come Wi Goh Dung Deh’, ‘Di Black Petty Booshwah’, ‘For those who go doun always an under’, ‘Jamaica Lullaby’, ‘Reggae Fi Dada’, ‘Same Way’ and ‘Sonny’s Lettah’. From Our Yard: Jamaican Poetry Since Independence. Ed. Pamela Mordecai. Kingston, Jamaica: Institute of Jamaica Publications Ltd, 1987. 114-126. ISBN 976801704X.

‘Di Anfinish Revalueshan’. POP: The Poetry Olympics Party Anthology. Ed. Michael Horovitz and Inge Elsa Laird. London: New Departures, 2000. 9; 70-72. ISBN 0 902689193.

—. The Popular Front of Caribbean Poetry Anthology. Ed. Paul Beasley. London: Apples and Snakes, 1992. 35-37. ISBN 0951888102.

‘Di Good Life’. Critical Quarterly 33.4 (Winter 1991): 39-40. ISSN 00111562.

‘Di Great Insohreckshan’. The Faber Book of Political Verse. Ed. Tom Paulin. London: Faber and Faber, 1986. 464-65. ISBN 0571136672.

‘Double Scank’, ‘Dread Beat An Blood’ and ‘Street 66’. Borderlines: Contemporary Poems in English. Ed. Wainwright, Clarke, Grogan, Li, Ross and Wallace. Toronto: Copp Clark Ltd, 1995. 256-59. ISBN 0773053425.

‘Dread Beat an Blood’, ‘Reggae Sounds’ and ‘Time Come’. Dub Poetry. Ed. Christian Habekost. Neustadt: Michael Schwinn, 1986. 94-107. ISBN 3925077073.

—. Dub Poetry. German edition. Ed. Christian Habekost. Neustadt: Michael Schwinn, 1986. 94-107. ISBN 3925077030.

‘Dread Beat an Blood’ and ‘Sense Outta Nansense’. The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. Ed. Stewart Brown and Mark McWatt. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. 273-275. ISBN 0192803328.

‘Dread Beat an Blood’ and ‘Time Come’. Savacou (1974): 26-28.

‘Five Nights of Bleeding’. Race Today (June 1973): 170.

‘Five Nights of Bleeding’ and ‘Tings An Times’. Critical Quarterly 38.4 (Winter 1996): 64.84. ISSN 00111562.

‘For Darcus Howe – Man Free – A Reggae Poem’. Race Today Nov./Dec. 1977: 163.

‘Forces of Victory’. Race Today Sept./Oct. 1978: 139.

‘Hurricane Blues’. Hand in Hand: An Anthology of Love Poems. Ed. Carol Ann Duffy. Basingstoke and Oxford: Picador, 2001. 61-62. ISBN 0330482254.

‘Hurricane Blues’ and ‘If I Woz a Tap-Natch Poet’. For the Geography of a Soul: Emerging Perspectives on Kamau Brathwaite. Ed. Timothy J Reiss. Trenton NJ and Asmara, Eritrea: Africa World Press Inc., 2001. 1-5; xiii. ISBN 0865439052.

‘If I Woz a Tap-Natch Poet’. IC3: The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain. Ed. Courttia Newland and Kadija Sesay. London: Penguin Hamish Hamilton, 2000. 175-178. ISBN 0241140471.

‘Inglan Is A Bitch’. Empire Windrush: Fifty Years of Writing About Black Britain. Ed. Onyekachi Wambu. London: Victor Gollancz, 1998. 211-13. ISBN 0-575-06599-0.

—. Extravagant Strangers. Ed. Caryl Phillips. London: Faber and Faber, 1997. 223-25. ISBN 0571190863.

—. The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland Since 1945. Ed. Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford. London: Viking, 1998. 353-55. ISBN 0670868299.

—. Race Today Review Dec. 1980/Jan. 1981: 65.

—. Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry. Ed. Peter Forbes. London: Viking, 1999. 153-54. ISBN 0670880116.

‘Inglan is a Bitch’ and ‘New Word Hawdah’. Jamaica Journal 30.1-2 (Dec. 2006): 69.

‘Inglan is a Bitch’ and ‘Reggae Fi Radni’. Voiceprint. Ed. Stewart Brown, Mervyn Morris and Gordon Rohlehr. Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1989. 82-83; 110-12. ISBN 0582786290.

‘It Dread Inna Inglan (for George Lindo)’. Race Today May/June 1978: 95.

‘It Noh Funny’ and ‘Sonny’s Lettah’. Race Today Jan. 1979: 15.

‘Jamaica Lullaby’. Race Today Aug./Sept. 1979: 94.

‘Mekkin Histri’. Uncommonwealth: An Anthology of Poetry in English. Ed. Neil Besner, Deborah Schnitzer and Alden Turner. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1997. 756-57. ISBN 0-195410769.

—. Viewfinder Topics: Minorities in Britain – Never at Ease. Compiled and ed. Michael Mitchell. Munich: Langenscheidt-Longman, 1997. 8; 32-33. ISBN 3526507627.

‘Mi Revalueshanary Fren’. Other: British and Irish Poetry Since 1970. Ed. Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain. Hanover, New England: Wesleyan UP, 1999. 126-28. ISBN 0819522589.

‘New Craas Massahkah’. Race Today Review 1984: 22-23.

‘New Word Hawdah’. New Humanist July-Aug. 2007: 45.

—. Polyphonix. Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou/ Editions Leo Scheer/ Polyphonix, 2002. 108-109. ISBN 2844261221.

‘Night of the Head’, ‘Sonny’s Lettah’ and ‘Yout Rebels’. Panta Musica 4. Italian. Ed. Elisabetta Sgarbi. Milano: RCS Librie Grandi Orere S.p.A., 1996. 231-32. ISBN 8845227146.

‘Reggae Fi Bernard’. Atlanta Review. Atlanta: Poetry Atlanta Inc., 1998. 67-69. ISSN 10739696.

Reggae Fi Dada’. AA Files 49. London: The Architectural Association, 2003: 4-6. ISSN 02616823, ISBN 1902902343.

—. Bete Noire. Hull: Hull Poets Anniversary Issue 12/13 (Autumn 1991/ Spring 1992): 403-405.

—. The Black Scholar 19.4-5 (July-Oct. 1988): 97. ISSN 00064246.

—. The New British Poetry 1968-88. Ed. G Allnutt, F D’Aguiar, K Edwards and E Mottram. London: Paladin, 1988. 49-51. ISBN 0586087656.

‘Reggae Fi May Ayim’. 90TAL: Journal of Literature and Fine Arts 30 (Dec. 1999): 104-107.

—. The Fire People: A Collection of Contemporary Black British Poets. Ed. Lemn Sissay. Edinburgh: Payback P, 1998. 42-44. ISBN 0862417392.

—. A Gathering of Tribes magazine (USA) (2000): 89. ISSN 10589112.

—. Kunapipi: Journal of Post-Colonial Writing. Hebden Bridge: Dangaroo Press, 1998: 143-44. ISSN 01065734.

—. Poetry Review 87.3 (Autumn 1997): 14-16. ISSN 00322156.

‘Reggae Fi Radni’. Race Today Review Dec. 1981/Jan. 1982: 12.

‘Reggae Sounds’ excerpt. The Firebox: Poetry in Britain and Ireland After 1945. Ed. Sean O’Brien. London and Basingstoke: Picador, 1998. 399-400. ISBN 0330369180.

‘Reggae Sounds’. Poems in your Pocket: Imaginative Approaches to GCSE Poetry. Mike Ferguson. Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1999. 62. ISBN 0582419891.

—. The POT! Anthology. Ed. Michael Horovitz. London: New Departures, 2005. 60-61. ISBN 0902689258.

‘Sonny’s Lettah’. Facing the Sea. Ed. Anne Walmsley and Nick Caistor. Oxford: Heinemann Educational, 1986. 54-55. ISBN 043598795X.

—. New Touchstones Advanced. Michael and Peter Benton. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002. 187. ISBN 0340801271.

‘Story’. Grandchildren of Albion. Ed. Michael Horovitz. Stroud, Glos.: New Departures, 1992. 170-171; 385-87. ISBN 0902689142.

‘Street 66’. Der Black Atlantic. Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Berlin: Haus der Kulturen der Welt, 2004. 114-118. ISBN 3980885151.

‘Wat About Di Workin Claas?’. Ambit91. London: Ambit, 1982. 3. ISSN 0002-6772.

‘Wat About Di Working Claas?’. Focus 1983: An Anthology of Contemporary Jamaican Writing. Ed. Mervyn Morris. Kingston, Jamaica: Caribbean Authors Publishing Co. Ltd, 1983. 228-29.

‘What About Di Working Class?’. Race Today Review 1983: 175.

Various poems. Hinterland: Caribbean Poetry from the West Indies and Britain. Ed. E A Markham. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1989. 250-272. ISBN 1852240865.

Various poems. Rock Session 5. Ed. Hartmann, Humann and Reichert. Hamburg: Taschenbuch Verlag, 1981. 70-93. ISBN 3499171138.

‘Youtman’ excerpt. Caribbean Poetry Now. Ed. Stewart Brown. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984. ISBN 0340345772.

‘Yout Rebels’. Tell It Like It Is: How our schools fail Black children. Ed. Brian Richardson. London: Bookmarks Publications and Trentham Books, 2005. 152-155. ISBN 1905192061.

‘Yout Rebels’ excerpt. Quiet Storm. Ed. Lydia Omolola. New York: Hyperion, 1999. 59. ISBN 0786804610.

Kwesi Johnson in English

Alibhai-Brown, Yasmin. ‘As good as his words’. The Independent Review 20 June 2003: 22.

Beasley, Paul. ‘Coming of Age or forever young’. OOtal journal (2004): 131-139. ISSN 14041197.

Billen, Andrew. ‘Why Inglan is still a bitch for the Tap Natch Poet’. Evening Standard 2 Sept. 1998: 25-26.

Bowie, David. ‘Confessions of a Vinyl Junkie’. Vanity Fair Nov. 2003: 144-149.

Brown, Mick. ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson: Poet Turns to Reggae’. Rolling Stone 7 Feb. 1980 (No. 310): 16.

Brown, Stewart. Review of Linton Kwesi Johnson Selected Poems. Poetry Wales (Jan. 2007).

Brown-Martin, Graham. ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson’. Trace magazine Mar./Apr. 2004: 40-41.

Caesar, Burt. Interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson. Critical Quarterly 38.4: 64-77.

Christian, Robert. ‘Revalueshanary Fren’. Village Voice. 23 Apr. 1991: 80.

Corio, David and Vivien Goldman. The Black Chord. New York: Universe, 1999. ISBN 0789303752.

Cumming, Tim. Pop review of Linton Kwesi Johnson at the Barbican. The Independent 11 Mar. 2008.

D’Aguiar, Fred. ‘Wan Way Tickit’. Poetry Review 87.3 (Autumn 1997): 14-16. ISSN 00322156.

Davis, Thulani. ‘LKJ Politics in the Groove’. Village Voice 21 Apr. 1980: 65-66.

Dieffenthaller, Ian. ‘Locating Linton Kwesi Johnson in a West Indian British Context’. Conference paper at Warwick University conference 16 Jan. 1999.

Dhondy, Farrukh. ‘The Black Writer in Britain’. Race Today 11 (1979): 66-69.

—. ‘Review: Voices of the Living and the Dead’. Race Today Mar. 1974: 92.

DiNovella, Elizabeth. ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson’. The Progressive 1 Feb. 2007: 33-36.

Dread, Fred. Interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson. Race Today Feb. 1977: 20-23.

—. Review of Linton Kwesi Johnson album Forces of Victory. Race Today May/June 1979: 69-70.

—. Review of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s single ‘Di Black Petty Booshwah’. Race Today May/June 1980: 22-23.

Eldridge, Michael. ‘The Rise and Fall of Black Britain’. Transition 74 (Mar. 1999): 32-43.

Espiner, Mark. ‘Dub him king of Inglan’. The Evening Standard 10 Mar. 2008: 42.

Fagan, Graham. Love is Lovely. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Fruitmarket Gallery, 2002. 11; 69. ISBN 0947912436.

Farrar, Max. ‘Photography: Making and Breaking Radicalised Boundaries: an Essay in Reflexive, Radical and Visual Sociology’. Sociological Research Online 10.1 (31 Mar. 2005).

Ferguson, James. ‘Revalueshanary Voice’. Caribbean Beat Magazine July/Aug. 2003: 69-72.

Glover, Michael. ‘Poetry: Linton Kwesi Johnson, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London’ Review. The Independent 28 Sept. 1996.

Gorham, Clare. ‘Ahead of his rhyme’. The Voice newspaper 16 Feb. 2004: 14-15.

Gräbner, Cornelia. ‘“Here to Stay”: The Performance of Accents in the Work of Linton Kwesi Johnson and Lemn Sissay’. Thamyris journal 14 (2007): 51-68.

Hay, Courtney. Review of Dread Beat an Blood album by Linton Kwesi Johnson. Race Today Sept./Oct. 1978: 142-143.

Harry, Allister. ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson – the Tap Natch Poet’. Sable: the Litmag for Writers Spring 2001: 7-18.

Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic. ‘Speaking Volumes’. Financial Times Magazine 14 June 2003: 46.

Interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson. 90TAL: Journal of Literature and Fine Arts 30 (Dec. 1999): 104-107.

Interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson. Changing Britannia: Life Experience With Britain. Ed. Roxy Harris and Sarah White. London: New Beacon Books/George Padmore Institute, 1999. 50-79; 215. ISBN 187320115X.

Interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson. Critical Quarterly 38.4 (Winter 1996): 64-84. ISSN 00111562.

Interview excerpts with Linton Kwesi Johnson. Windrush: The Irresistible Rise of Multi-Racial Britain. Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips. London: HarperCollins, 1999. ISBN 0006530397.

Interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson. Hinterland: Caribbean Poetry from the West Indies and Britain. Ed. E A Markham. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1989. 250-272. ISBN 1852240865.

Interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson. Rock Session 5. Ed. Hartmann, Humann and Reichert. Hamburg: Taschenbuch Verlag, 1981. 70-93. ISBN 3499171138.

Interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson (originally published in Changing Britannia). Tell It Like It Is: How our schools fail Black children. Ed. Brian Richardson. London: Bookmarks Publications and Trentham Books, 2005. 152-155. ISBN 1905192061.

Jaggi, Maya. ‘Mi Revalueshanary Fren’. The Guardian 24 Sept. 1996: 13.

—. ‘Poet on the front line’. The Guardian Review 4 May 2002: 6-7.

—. ‘Why Linton is blowing his top’. The Guardian G2 26 Apr. 1999: 16.

Jamaica Journal. ‘Silver Musgrave Medallist 2005: Linton Kwesi Johnson’. Jamaica Journal 30.1-2 (Dec. 2006): 68.

Larkin, Colin, ed. The Guinness Who’s Who of Reggae. Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Publishing, 1994. 133-35. ISBN 081127347.

Lawson Welsh, Sarah. Review of Tings an Times: Selected Poems. Bete Noire. Hull: Hull Poets Anniversary Issue 12/13 (Autumn 1991/Spring 1992): 406-424.

Leadbetter, Tim. ‘A Multi-Critical Reading of “Reality Poem” by Linton Kwesi Johnson’. English Association Newsletter 176 (Summer 2004): 6-9.

Lindley, David. Lyric. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1985. 38. ISBN 0416314406.

Lloyd, Errol. Review of Linton Kwesi Johnson album Bass Culture. Race Today Review Dec. 1980/Jan. 1981: 63-64.

Morris, Mervyn. ‘Dub Poets’. Race Today Review 1983: 150-157.

—. Interview with Linton Kwesi Johnson. Jamaica Journal 20.1 (1987): 17-26.

—. Is English We Speaking. London: the British Library, 1993. ISBN 0712303197.

—. Is English We Speaking and Other Essays. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 1999. 1-16; 36-44. ISBN 976812363X.

—. ‘Printing in Performance’. Jamaica Journal 23 (Feb.-Apr. 1990): 21-27.

—. ‘A Note on “Dub Poetry”’. Wasafiri 26 (Autumn 1997): 66-69. ISSN 02690055.

Moore, Malcolm. ‘Reggae radical joins Betjeman’. The Daily Telegraph 18 Mar. 2002: 1.

Mühleisen, Susanne. Review of Linton Kwesi Johnson Live in Paris with the Dennis Bovell Dub  Band DVD. Wasafiri 22.1 Issue 50 (Mar. 2007): 87-88.

Mürer, Timon. ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Dub Poetry, Aspects of its Evolution and its Political Message’. Extended Essay. Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa, Aug. 1998.

Nevins, Bill. ‘Poetry as a Political Act’. Z Magazine Dec. 2006: 53-55.

Pepper, Tara. ‘Penguin’s Patois Poet’. Newsweek 29 Apr. 2002: 51.

Phillips, Caryl. ‘Prophet in another land’. The Guardian Weekend 11 July 1998: 29-33.

Procter, James. Dwelling Places: Postwar Black British Writing. Manchester, UK: Manchester UP, 2004. ISBN 0719060540.

Rugg, Akua. Review of Dread Beat an Blood – A documentary film of Reggae Poet LKJ. Race Today Feb./Mar. 1979: 44-46.

Sandhu, Sukhdev. London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City. London: HarperCollins, 2003. ISBN 000257182X.

‘Some Thoughts on Reggae’. Race Today Review Dec. 1980/Jan. 1981: 58-61.

Stewart, Bob. Review of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s album Making History. Race Today Review 1985: 42-43.

Stewart, Robert J. ‘Choosing his Voice: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Caribbean Word’. Conference paper at ‘The Second Conference on Caribbean Culture’ at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica 6-12 Jan. 2002.

—. ‘Linton Kwesi Johnson Poetry: Down a Reggae Wire’. New West Indian Guide 67 1-2 (1993): 69-89.

—. ‘London, New York City and Caribbean Writers’. Conference paper at ‘The Caribbean in New York and Paris’ conference at the Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy 27 Aug.-1 Sept. 2003.

Styles, Morag. From the Garden to the Street. London: Cassell, 1998. 282; 292. ISBN 0304332224.

Sutcliffe, David and Ansel Wong. The Language of the Black Experience. Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986. 69; 83-84; 89-90. ISBN 0631148167.

Taylor, Laurie. ‘Leggo Relijan’. New Humanist Magazine Spring 2003: 10-13.

Wesling, Donald. ‘Mikhaïl Bakhtin and the Social Poetics of Dialect’. Papers in Language and Literature. Edwardsville, Illinois: 1993. 303-322.

Wroe, Nicholas. ‘A life in writing’. The Guardian Review 8 Mar. 2008: 11.

Williams, K Leander. ‘The riddim method: A poet-musician discusses his Jamaican creole verse’. Time Out New York 12 Oct. 2006.


Selected Critical Work and Articles on Linton Kwesi Johnson in other languages

Assante, Ernesto. Reggae: Da Bob Marley ai Police, Da Kingston a Londra Storia e Protagonisti Della Rivoluzione Musicale Giamaicana. Milan, Italy: Savelli Editori, 1980. 84-85. ISSN 008-20011.

Bader, Stasa. Worte Und Feuer: Dance Hall-Dichtung in Jamaika und England. Neustadt, Germany: Buchverlag Michael Schwinn, 1988. ISBN 3925077111.

Bellini, G, C Gorlier and S Zoppi, ed. Saggi e Ricerche Sulle Culture Extraeuropee (1995). Rome: Bulzori Editore, 1997. 85-92. ISBN 8883190572.

Parolai, Sara. Afrocaraibici a Londra: Linton Kwesi Johnson cantore dub del sociale. PhD Thesis. Genoa, Italy: University of Genoa, Foreign Languages and Cultures, 2004.

—. LKJ: Vita e Battaglie del Poeta del Reggae. Genova, Italy: Chinaski Edizioni, 2009. ISBN 8889966416.

Linton Kwesi Johnson Sound Recordings

Bass Culture. Vinyl album. London: Island Records, 1980.

Dread Beat An’ Blood. Vinyl album. London: Virgin, 1978.

Forces of Victory. Vinyl album. London: Island Records, 1979.

Independant Intavenshan. CD album. London and USA: Island Records, 1998.

Island Masters Reggae Greats. CD album. London: Island Records, 1985.

LKJ A Cappella Live. CD album. London: LKJ Records Ltd, 1996. Also released by WEA France (1998).

LKJ in Dub. Vinyl album. London: Island Records, 1981.

LKJ in Dub: Volume Two. CD and vinyl album. London: LKJ Records Ltd, 1992. Also released by Vacation Japan (1992), WEA Music France (1998).

LKJ in Dub Volume Three. CD and vinyl album. London: LKJ Records Ltd, 2002. Also released by WEA France (2002).

LKJ Live in Concert with the Dub Band. CD and vinyl album. London: LKJ Records Ltd, 1984. Also released by Vacation Japan (1984), Shanachie USA (1985).

LKJ Live in Paris with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band. CD album and DVD. London: LKJ Records Ltd, 2004.

Making History. CD and vinyl album. London and USA: Mango Island Records, 1983.

More Time. CD and vinyl album. London: LKJ Records Ltd, 1998. Also released by WEA Music France (1998), LKJ Records USA (1999)

Straight To Inglan’s Head: An Introduction to Linton Kwesi Johnson. CD album. London: Island Records, 2003.

Tings An’ Times. London: LKJ Records, 1991. Also released by Mensch Switzerland (1991), Quattro Japan (1991), WEA Music France (1991).


Sound Recording Compilations including tracks by Linton Kwesi Johnson

‘Beacon of Hope’. Miniatures 2. Ed. Morgan Fisher. CD album. UK: Cherry Red Records, 2000. Also released by Consipio Records Japan (2000).

‘BG’ and Interview. The Routes of English. Simon Elmes. CD. UK: BBC CD, 2000. ISBN 1901710246.

‘Di Anfinish Revalueshan’ and ‘Story’. Grandchildren of Albion Live on CD Volume One. Various artists. CD album. London, UK: New Departures, no date.

‘Dread Beat ‘n’ Blood’, ‘Story’, ‘Guyanese Dub’ and ‘Sensical Dub’. LKJ Presents. Various artists. CD album. London: LKJ Records Ltd, 1996.

‘Forces of Victory’. Planete Reggae: Le Meilleur de la Musique Reggae. Various artists. CD album. France: Declic Communication , WMD, 1991.

‘If I Waz a Tap Natch Poet’. Poetry in Performance Volume 1. Various artists. CD album. London: 57 Productions, 2002.

‘Mi Revalueshanary Fren’. Summer Jam History. Various artists. CD album. Germany: Polymedia, 1996.

‘Rebirth’. The Peeni Waali Phenomenon. Fizzè. London: LKJ Records Ltd, 1999.

‘Reggae Fi May Ayim’. Dignity. Various artists. CD album. France: Naïve, 2002.

‘Sense outta Nansense’. Irie Irie. Various artists. CD album. The Netherlands: Munich Records BV, 1991.

‘Story’. Reperages Couleurs Vol.6/1991. Various artists. CD album. Switzerland: 150 BPM Records, 1991.

Johnson, Linton Kwesi, composer. ‘Chasm’. Bushfire. Steve Gregory. CD album. London, LKJ Records Ltd, 1994. Also released by Quattro Japan (1994).

Johnson, Linton Kwesi (words), Fizzè and Dizzi (music). ‘Beacon of Hope’. Peeni Waali. CD album. Various artists. Switzerland: Mensch, 1991.

Johnson, Linton Kwesi, Imhotep and Shurik’n. ‘Tek Chance’. Emmaüs Mouvement 1949-1999. Various artists. CD album. Paris: Virgin France, 1999.

Keane, Shake (all tracks composed Linton Kwesi Johnson and Shake Keane). Real Keen: Reggae into Jazz. CD, vinyl and audio cassette album. London: LKJ Records Ltd, undated.

Sublime. ‘Garden Grove’. Sublime. CD album. USA: Gasoline Alley, MCA, 1996.

BBC Radio 4 Website. Desert Island Discs 8 Dec. 2002

BBC 4 Television Website. Reggae Britannia 7 Feb. 2011

The Guardian Website. Linton Kwesi Johnson: ‘Diane Abbott was right about divide and rule’ – video 28 Mar. 2012 

The George Padmore Institute Website.

Island Fifty 1959-2009 Website. Island Records

Linton Kwesi Johnson Official Website. 

The Poetry Archive Website. Linton Kwesi Johnson page 

Wikipedia Website. Entry for Linton Kwesi Johnson.



Note: there are thousands of YouTube clips of Linton Kwesi Johnson performing with the Dennis Bovell Dub Band and reciting poetry solo. The following are a selection only.

Johnson, Linton. ‘Five Nights of Bleeding’. At Exeter Phoenix. Uploaded by phonicfm 22 July 2008

—. ‘Inglan is a Bitch’. OGWT 1980. Uploaded by thecatkeaton 24 Sept. 2007

Johnson, Linton and the Dennis Bovell Dub Band. ‘Fite dem Back’. At Rototom 2011. Uploaded by REGGAEWISE Dongen 3 Sept. 2011

—. ‘More Time’. Uploaded by banatchec 24 Feb. 2007

—. ‘Sonny’s Lettah’. At Chiemsee Reggae Festival, Germany 2008. Uploaded by Rene Zwaap 25 Feb. 2009

—. ‘Want Fi Goh Rave’. Uploaded by rockpaperscissors 13 Feb. 2007