Sunday, October 12, 2008

Alton Ellis now leading in Heaven’s choir

“Girl I’ve got a date!” sang Alton Ellis and everybody on the dance floor sang “aaaah –ah!” Alton Ellis flavoured our lives with his rich lyrics and voice. On Winford Williams’ CVM “Onstage” we learned that many of his songs were cris de coeur as he struggled with his tempestuous marriage. And so we were gifted with “I’m still in love (with you girl!)”, “Willow Tree” and “Muriel”. His was a voice appealing for peace as in “Dancecrasher”.

Below is a heart-rending comment from his also famous nephew Owen 'Blakka' Ellis as reported by Basil Walters in the Observer.

Alton Ellis hailed a musical icon

BY BASIL WALTERS Observer staff reporter
Sunday, October 12, 2008

MEMBERS of the musical fraternity yesterday hailed the late Alton Ellis as a musical legend who will never be forgotten, even as they lauded him for his hard work over more than half a century.

"He always called me 'ska king'. And I always called him 'the great Mr Rock Steady'," said Derrick Morgan, one of Ellis' musical peers for more than 50 years. "A lot of shows, he and I performed in Europe together. The last show I remember he and I did was in June at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Jamaica."

Ellis, 64, lost the battle against cancer in a London hospital last Friday night.
Michael Barnett, who along with Keith Brown used to promote the longest running vintage show series called Startime, said Ellis had always been one of his biggest drawing cards.

"Alton was always a favourite artiste of the people from day one. The people just had a love affair with him," he said.

For Lloyd Parks, whose We the People band was the longest backing outfit for Startime, Ellis was a mentor. "I used to go to Studio One on Brentford Road just to look at Alton and Ken Boothe; and said 'I want to be like them'. It brought joy to me when I started backing them. That brought so much joy to me that when they started labelling me as a vintage band, I just didn't care - even though I back everybody. His passing touched me," said Parks sadly.

Minister of Information, Culture, Sports and Youth Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, for her part, extended condolences to his family, while lauding him as a reggae icon.
"Like thousands of other Jamaicans, I deeply mourned the passing of Jamaica's most famous exponent of rock steady, Alton Ellis," said Grange, adding that it was Ellis and keyboardist, the late Jackie Mittoo, who invented the rock steady beat in the mid-1960s.

One of Ellis' more enduring gems called 'Why' has been immortalised as he is said to have asked 'why' in his final moments. It is a reality that has deepened the sadness of at least one family member. "My cousin (Uncle Alton's son Clive) tell me that one of the last words he uttered was 'Why'," said Owen 'Blakka' Ellis, comedian and nephew of the trailblazing Jamaican singer. "And I'm asking the Almighty why, why so many good people have to die. I think I feel too numb to think. My heart full and my eyes too tired to cry. I was about to sleep but the news got me out of bed. Now, Uncle Alton's words are stuck in my head."

Legendary Alton Ellis passes on

published: Sunday Gleaner | October 12, 2008

ALTON ELLIS, the west Kingston balladeer who defined the lovers' rock genre, died Friday evening at age 70. The singer succumbed to a 10-month fight with lymphatic cancer.

Sandra Ellis, one of his children, told The Sunday Gleaner that her father passed away at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, where he had been receiving treatment for the past two weeks.

Ellis had been diagnosed with cancer of the lymph glands in December 2007.
No singer had more success on Jamaican charts during the 1960s than the Trench Town-born Ellis whose first hit song was Muriel, which was done with Eddie Perkins.
Throughout the 1960s, Ellis recorded a series of ska hits for rival producers Arthur 'Duke' Reid and Clement Dodd. These included Dancecrasher, Girl I've Got a Date, I'm Just a Guy and I'm Still in Love.

He immigrated to England in the early 1970s where he remained active musically. He enjoyed a career resurgence in the 1990s when there was a rocksteady revival in Jamaica and Europe.

In 2003, dancehall superstar Sean Paul and singer Sasha had a minor hit in the United States with their cover of I'm Still in Love.

Ellis, who last performed here in June, is survived by wife Judith and over 20 children.


  1. ESTEBAN AGOSTO REIDOctober 12, 2008 at 2:15 PM

    Sincere condolences to family and friends.You definitely will be missed Alton.ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID