The 50th anniversary of lovers rock and its history in Brent will be the subject of an exhibition and an online forum this month.

From October 25-30 The Lovers Rock Exhibition in Willesden, focusses on the 1970s history of the genre, curated by reggae broadcaster Colin "CeeBee" Brown, who will give daily talks.

Brent-based historical musicologist Kwaku said lovers rock, which recently received attention following the release of Steve McQueen's Small Axe, is musically and culturally important.

“Those who like to locate the African Caribbean history from the Windrush era can point to the first generation of the Windrush children coming of age by the 1970s," he said.

“Although they consumed reggae music from Jamaica, with growing confidence and a realisation that Britain was their home, they created lovers rock, which is one of the earliest variants of reggae to come out of Britain.

“Musically, it provided a focus on love, as a counterpoint to the religion and politics focused roots reggae coming out of Jamaica. Lovers rock provided the much-needed sweet, soulful backdrop to the mating rituals of young adults in the clubs and the blues parties."

He said it gave them a chance to sing about their "British experience".

Brent was home to the biggest reggae labels and distributors, such as Trojan and Pama (later Jetstar). The area around Church End to Harlesden had several record shops, and two remain: Starlight and Hawkeye. In front of the latter is the symbolic Reggae Tree.

“Artist-wise, the first lovers rock breakthrough record was Caught You In A Lie by Louisa Mark, who was born in Kensal Rise," said Kwaku.

"The first pop crossover was Janet Kay's Silly Games, which got to number two in the national charts. That record was distributed by Brent companies - Harlesden-based indie Lightning Records and the Alperton-based major WEA (Warner, Elektra, Atlantic).

"Incidentally, Janet is one of the 'queens of lovers rock', along with her friend Carroll Thompson, who also lived in Brent."

On October 19, the online discussion will explore the genre in the 1970s. Kwaku and Colin will be moderating a panel including Clem Bushay, who puts the start of UK lovers rock at 1972 with his production of Summer Time by Domino Johnson.

This month another Brent contribution to music was honoured. The former Island Records building in Hammersmith was affixed with a Nubian Jak blue plaque, but the company's first offices were in Brent – Kilburn, then Neasden.

Brent & Kilburn Times: The Island Records plaque in HammersmithThe Island Records plaque in Hammersmith (Image: Kwaku)

Book a free place on the Lovers Rock Forum via

The Lovers Rock Exhibition will be open from October 25-30, midday to 8pm, at BBMC, 385 High Road, Willesden.

Five lovers rock classics from Kwaku:

  • Janet Kay - Silly Games
  • Jean Adebambo - Paradise
  • Winston Reedy - Dim The Lights
  • Aswad's - I Need Your Love
  • Louisa Mark - Keep It Like It is