RIP, Alton Ellis

Sad news in the reggae world tonight, as one of Jamaican music’s pioneers has passed away. Rest in peace, Alton Ellis, the godfather of rocksteady. According to the BBC:

“Ellis was still performing until August this year, when he collapsed after a concert in central London.

His manager and agent Trish De Rosa described him as “my guiding star and my inspiration”.

“His life was the music and the stage,” she said. “He was getting a tremendous amount of work right up to the end – it was very difficult to get him to slow down.”

The Jamaican authorities are considering giving Ellis a state funeral, Ms De Rosa added.

The prolific singer, who began his career in the 1950s and fronted vocal group The Flames, was diagnosed with cancer in 2007.

Ellis underwent chemotherapy before returning to the stage, but died in London’s Hammersmith hospital on Friday night.

He leaves more than 20 children. “

The size of the family Alton Ellis left behind doesn’t surprise me in the slightest — he was a smooth brother and if his lyrics are anything to be believed, a romantic at heart.

Alton Ellis’ best known hit was probably I’m Still In Love With You, which was covered by Sean Paul and Sasha a few years back.

There are some great Alton Ellis reggae covers to be found in YouTube’s deep crates — his version of Bye Bye Love is sweet, and I love his cover of It’s a Shame.

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.

Alton Ellis’ tune was reworked into an ode to ganja and Rastafari by Jacob Miller, as “I’m Just a Dread.”

Ellis was known as a dapper dude and a consummate performer, as you can see in this live version of “Girl, I’ve Got a Date.”

It takes a certain kind of skill to pull off a velvet suit. Alton Ellis had it down cold.

Soul Sides and Trojan Records have posted Alton Ellis tributes, and Que Pasa 305 has a great tribute to Studio One, complete with downloadable tracks.

You will be missed, Alton Ellis. And your musical legacy will live on.

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  1. aw! that’s sad news. grew up listening to alton ellis, ken boothe, desmond dekker… a lot of the JA-to-UK ska artists as well… sigh. back when music was sweet and pure, and talent meant something…

  2. I think the world has just lost one of the pioneers of great music ofmany decades.

    Alton was there when reggae music began; he created a new style of reggae music (rock steady); his music continued throuhout generations (including mine) AND his music will be long remembered long after he has gone. He has truly left a great legacy for his family and the people of the world. He will be greatly missed.

  3. Yes, Rest in Peace to Alton Ellis. One of the greats!

  4. Real nice post, ‘Bella… Alton will be missed.


    Sincere condolences to family and friends.Alton, you will definitely be missed,but your classic songs and musical genius lives on.Rest in peace brother!

  6. In loving memory of the legend Alton Ellis O.D. Featuring Troy Ellis and the Longshots with performances by members of the Ellis family, plus many special guests, suprise band and Bristols No 1 sound Unique star. Saturday 10th October 2009 @ The Malcome X Center St. Paul’s Bristol, 8pm-4am tickets £10 available from Genesis Bristol, Rice & Things and Afro Delight Caribbean Catering, £15 on the door, for more info Tel: Troy Ellis 07981846093 or 07766128798. . Jah bless and Jah Guide Troy Ellis


  1. […] 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 […]

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