Famous Jamaican singer Millie Small dies of stroke at 73

Millie Small_Photo: BBC

Popular Jamaican singer, Millie Small, has passed on. The star who was famous in the 1960s reportedly suffered a stroke. She was 73. Announcing her death, the founder of Island Records, Chris Blackwell described her as “a sweet person.”

Small made her name in the UK in 1964 after the release of her hit single, My Boy Lollipop. The song, which remains one of the biggest selling Ska songs of all time, reached number two in both the US and UK. It sold more than seven million copies.

Ska is a music genre originating in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. It combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues.

“I would say she’s the person who took ska international because it was her first hit record,” Blackwell told the Jamaica Observer

“It became a hit pretty much everywhere in the world. I went with her around the world because each of the territories wanted her to turn up and do TV shows and such, and it was just incredible how she handled it.”

“She was such a sweet person, really a sweet person. Very funny, great sense of humour. She was really special,” said Blackwell.

Known for her high-pitch vocal, Small’s journey to the big stage began when she won a talent contest at the Palladium Theatre in Clarendon, south Jamaica at age 12.  

She scored major hits including We’ll Meet featuring reggae singer Roy Patton and Sweet William released in 1968.

Millie Small dead: My Boy Lollipop singer dies of stroke aged 73 ...
After her singing career, Small ventured into painting_Photo: Daily Mirror

After several unsuccessful singles, Small took a step back from the big stage and moved to Singapore and New Zealand where she lived, concentrating on writing, painting and raising her daughter, BBC reported.

In a rare interview, when My Boy Lollipop was re-released in 1987 to mark Island Records’ 25th anniversary, the singer revealed she had, at one point, been penniless and sleeping rough in London.

However, she took the hard times in good grace, explaining on Thames TV: “That’s all experience. It was great. I didn’t worry because I knew what I was doing. I saw how the other half live. It’s something I chose to do.”

She was recognized by Jamaica’s Governor-General in 2011 with a Commander in the Order of Distinction for her contribution to the Jamaican music industry.

The singer left behind a daughter, Joan, who is also a musician based in London.

Tributes are being paid after news of her death went viral:

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: May 6, 2020


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