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Caribbean: Remembering Alton Ellis

Categories: Caribbean, Jamaica, Arts & Culture, Music

Late Jamaican musician Alton Ellis
“Alton Ellis”, photo by: Eric Oliviera, used with permission. Visit Eric's flickr photostream [1].

Alton Ellis [2], the Jamaican musician who was a major pioneer of rocksteady [3] music in the 1960s, died [4] last Friday, 10 October, after a year's battle with cancer. As the Jamaica Gleaner says [5] , 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 [6] to his talent, his voice, and his personality. Tributes appeared in the Caribbean blogosphere as well. "We've lost a great pioneer," [7] 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 [8] of Ellis performing one of his best known songs, "I'm Still in Love". Afrobella also delved into the YouTube archive [9] , for footage of Ellis performing "I'm Just a Guy" [10] and "Girl I've Got a Date" [11] . 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 [12] 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 [13] , "Alton Ellis flavoured our lives with his rich lyrics and voice." And Antilles , the blog of the Caribbean Review of Books , noted [14] 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 [15] a rumour that Ellis would be given a state funeral in Jamaica.

Stunner's Afflictions posted a simple message of tribute [16] . "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."