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Caribbean: Remembering Alton Ellis

Late Jamaican musician Alton Ellis
“Alton Ellis”, photo by: Eric Oliviera, used with permission. Visit Eric's flickr photostream.

Alton Ellis, the Jamaican musician who was a major pioneer of rocksteady music in the 1960s, died last Friday, 10 October, after a year's battle with cancer. As the Jamaica Gleaner says , though Ellis never had a big international hit — unlike near contemporaries like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff — the "godfather of rocksteady" was a major influence on the following generation of Jamaican musicians, and he has long been considered a Jamaican musical legend.

As news of his death spread over the weekend, members of the Jamaican music scene paid tribute to his talent, his voice, and his personality. Tributes appeared in the Caribbean blogosphere as well. "We've lost a great pioneer," wrote literary blogger Geoffrey Philp.

… the sheer innocence and optimism of 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.

Philp linked to a YouTube clip of Ellis performing one of his best known songs, "I'm Still in Love". Afrobella also delved into the YouTube archive , for footage of Ellis performing "I'm Just a Guy" and "Girl I've Got a Date" . She commented:

My favorite of his hits is “I’m Just a Guy.” That’s a sentiment you don’t often hear in music now. Humility, romance, and earnest yearning for love. I hope you find it as refreshing as I do.

And Afrobella also sent out a message on Twitter for fansof today's Jamaican music:

For those of you who don't know, Alton Ellis sang the original "I'm Still in Love W U" that Sean-da-Paul covered

Lowrie-Chin Post added , "Alton Ellis flavoured our lives with his rich lyrics and voice." And Antilles , the blog of the Caribbean Review of Books , noted that there was some confusion over Ellis's actual birth date, and linked to an obituary message at the Trojan Records website. YardFlex meanwhile reported a rumour that Ellis would be given a state funeral in Jamaica.

Stunner's Afflictions posted a simple message of tribute . "Alton Ellis had the power to sway his audience both young and old to his soothing music," he wrote. "He was one of the crowd favorites…. This great Jamaican music icon will be dearly missed."

  • ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID

    A musical genius and trailblazer of Jamaican music, who will be greatly missed.Indeed, his classic works will live on forever.Sincere condolences to family and friends.RIP Alton Ellis.

  • Interlude Pixtures

    Rest,rest in peace Brother Alton Ellis.Your name is to be set on high,sacrosantifed in the world of reggae music.You are the founding father of our music.Thank you for the great music,your compassion and your love you spread across the word.every nation,every kinds of people love you and your family.. …you will be greatly missed!Our heart is broken…Only your sweet music now can really slowly mend it..One Love my Brother!Till Jah Jah mek we meet again..

  • beva

    Aaaaaarrrrggghhhh!!!!!

    I am hearing his voice in my head… oh dear God thank you for his life and his music. My deepest condolences to those he left behind. He was one of Jamaica’s unsung heroes, did not get recognized for all that he did in his time with us but his memory will live on. He did not blow away the international charts but he blew each of us away individually as I am sure we all have our favourite songs. There is a wicked concert going on on the other side and a new lead singer just joined the band. Alton was loved and respected by many, may his soul rest in peace.

  • Angel

    I am so sad to hear Alton is gone from this earth but he will never be gone from my heart & all those who loved his music. Alton didn’t really get the recognition he deserved as a ska, rocksteady & reggae artist with the music industry, but those who know true revival reggae will appreciate his music as I do. As a birthday treat my son bought me a ticket to see Alton in Camden in September 2006 for my 50th & I absolutely enjoyed! His son Chris (who my daughter knows from school) also performed & he sounds so much like his dad & I was able to speak briefly with Alton through my friend Barry Howard(from The Aces)that night which just topped it off for me. This saturday when I play my tunes I will be lighting a candle for Alton & playing a one hour selection of his songs in memory of him. Love & Respect you always Alton & God Bless You. R.I.P xx

  • http://www.myspace/bluegrant stillcool Joseph.

    so much love to give, so sad so sad but Jah knows best when he took him to rest be blessed forever Jah guides and keeps rest in peace.

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