To reflect on 29 March 2017, the triggering of Article 50, and the first official day of Brexit – the United Kingdom beginning the process to politically separate from being from part of the European Union after a long, protracted, confused and ill-informed referendum vote – what better way to mark Britishness than with a reggae track? Britain at its best has always taken in and embraced a rich mixture of musical cultures, and among these, reggae from the island of Jamaica has been very much part of that, many years before this debut album by Dennis Brown in 1970 when West Indians came over from the 1950s to fill a huge labour shortage. This track, a cover by the Texan four-piece R&B/soul singers The Van Dykes who split up in 1968, does, on a much broader metaphorical scale, remind us that no man, nor country is alone or can be truly independent, and needs others to work, forge alliances with, prosper and gain the fruits of friendship.
No man is an island
No man stands alone
Each man has a brother
Each man's dream has a road.
…No you can't make it alone
And just as sure as you try to make it by yourself
You gonna wake up and find you gonna need somebody else.
Let us also enjoy the original by The Van Dykes:
And finally, the poem, by John Donne (1573-1631) from which the title comes. It could not ring more true today:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
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