Reggae Legend Dies at Hammersmith Hospital

Music fans mourn as Alton Ellis loses battle with cancer

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Reggae legend Alton Ellis has died in Hammersmith Hospital at the age of 70.

Staff at the Du Cane Road site announced that Ellis, who had cancer of the lymph glands, died peacefully last Friday night (10 October).

The Jamaican-born singer was a major pioneer of rocksteady music in the 1960s and became known as “The Godfather of Rocksteady”, influencing a whole generation of Jamaican musicians.  

His biggest hits included 'Dance Crasher', 'I'm Still In Love', 'Girl I've Got A Date', and 'Muriel'.

“Having known and worked with Alton for 20 years I mourn the passing of a great artist as well as a great friend. His music will live for ever,” his agent said in an announcement on the Roots-Rockers Promotions website.

Ellis was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1938 and first emigrated to Canada before settling in the UK in the 1970s.

He was awarded the Order of Distinction by Jamaica in 1994.

Jamaica’s Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Olivia Grange, paid tribute to the star: “We will be eternally grateful to Alton who along with keyboardist Jackie Mittoo invented the rocksteady beat in the mid-1960s. He popularised that era of Jamaican music and remained a celebrated performer for several decades.”

Rocksteady music uses vocal harmonies and has a slower, more relaxed tempo and heavier bass than Jamaican ska music.

Ellis was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2007 but continued performing until he collapsed on stage during his final concert in London in August.

He is survived by his wife and more than 20 children.

14 October 2008