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Sunday 12 October 2008

R.I.P Alton Ellis, 1 September, 1938 (?)-10 October, 2008

Alton Ellis, the "godfather of rocksteady", died on Friday in London. He was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, but was still performing up to last August. No doubt fuller obituaries will follow; the Jamaica Observer offers some tributes from members of the Jamaican musical scene. (There seems to be some confusion over whether Ellis was born in 1938 or 1940--sources disagree.) Geoffrey Philp also pays tribute at his blog:

We've lost a great pioneer whose music goes back to the days when the word "shotta" did not exist--not that there weren't rude bwais. But the sheer innocence and optimism of the Ellis's music reminds me of a time when the island was not ruled by fear of the gunman, and you could walk down the street singing, "I'm Just a Guy," or even try singing it to a dawta. For here was a song written in your own idiom and without any apologies for the emotion or delivery.

As does Laurence Cane-Honeysett at the Trojan records website:

For well over forty years, his inimitable voice has thrilled hundreds of thousands worldwide on countless classic Ska, Soul, Rock Steady and Reggae recordings, many of which he also happened to have penned. His passing ... is a terrible loss not just to the world of music, but the world at large, for, as all who came to meet him can testify, he was truly a prince among men.

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