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Jamaican Music Icon Alton Ellis Dies

Posted on 11th October 2008 by Reggaelifestyle

A stalwart of Jamaica’s music industry, Alton Ellis is dead. Mr. Ellis, who was one of the key contributors to the development of the ska and rock steady era, died Friday night in a London Hospital. Mr. Ellis who was 64 had been battling cancer for several months. Alton Ellis is generally revered as one of the greatest and most soulful singers Jamaica has ever produced. The singer was born in Kingston in 1944, and grew up in the Trench Town area as part of a musically inclined family.

In his early teens, Ellis was one half of the duo “Alton & Eddie” with fellow singer Eddie Perkins. In 1958, after winning a prominent talent show, they recorded the single “Muriel,” for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, which became a substantial hit. Not long after cutting the follow-up “My Heaven,” Perkins left for the United States, leaving Ellis to establish himself as a solo act in Jamaica. In 1962, Duke Reid took Ellis to his Treasure Isle label where he mined several of his best known hits recording with a backing trio, The Flames which included his brother Leslie Ellis.

The hits “Girl I’ve Got a Date”, “Cry Tough” and “Rock Steady”, which lent its name to the newer genre marked his tenure with the Treasure Isle label. As rocksteady dominated the Jamaican airwaves for the next two years, Ellis continued to score hits for Treasure Isle, working with artists such as Lloyd Charmers, Phyllis Dillon and The Heptones. The “Mad Mad” riddim, first recorded by Ellis in 1967 would later be recycled in more than one hundred other songs. This constant reinterpretation and referencing made Ellis a major but little-known influence in the trajectory of dance hall, reggae and hip hop.

He moved to England in the 1970’s and established his own Alltone label, which he devoted to both new recordings and compilations of his early classics. In 2006, he was inducted into the International Reggae and World Music Awards Hall Of Fame. He made several guest appearances on the popular “Stars R Us Shows” and as recently as this June was the star performer at several “Get Ready to Rock Steady concerts” put on by the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports at the National Indoor Sport Centre.

His smooth consistent vocals will be surely missed.

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Response to.. Jamaican Music Icon Alton Ellis Dies


RIP, to a great legend! His music got many plays in my household while growing up.

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