Farewell, Ronnie!Saturday, January 23, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
AFTER it was announced that he was a recipient of an award from the Tribute To The Greats show in 2012, Ronnie Nasralla welcomed the news in bittersweet fashion.
“I feel I have done a lot for entertainment in Jamaica but have little recognition to show for it,” he said.
Nasralla died in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 20 at age 90. His eldest child, Christian, confirmed his passing.
“He passed very peaceful. Rosemary (his wife) had a priest come the night before and he gave him the last rites. Daddy actually laughed before he passed; I'm sure it was Hamilton (his son who predeceased him) making the transition easier. He is with so many family members and friends now, and he is at peace,” wrote Christian in a text.
Nasralla was the jack-of-all-trades man during the early years of the Jamaican music industry. He was artiste manager, music producer, pitchman and mentor.
Sheila Lee is widow of Byron Lee, the famed bandleader who was Nasralla's close friend. She was introduced to her husband by Nasralla who, like her, was of Lebanese heritage.
“He was a close family friend. Ronnie and Byron had a relationship that surpassed all,” a tearful Lee told the Jamaica Observer. “I'm so heartbroken.”
Byron Lee died in 2008.
He and the older Nasralla attended St George's College in Kingston. It's where Lee formed The Dragonaires band for which the jocular Nasralla was an early manager.
He also managed The Blues Busters and Toots and the Maytals, successful groups that were in Lee's camp in the mid-1960s. Nasralla produced several hit songs including Wings of A Dove by The Blues Busters and Daddy and It's You by Toots and the Maytals.
Probably his greatest achievement in music was pitching ska to the American market in 1964. That year, Millie Small had a massive hit in the United Kingdom with My Boy Lollipop and The Dragonaires topped local charts with Jamaican ska.
Nasralla, who Lee described as “a great dancer”, performed the ska dance during appearances in the United States.
In the 1970s, he left the music business and went into advertising, starting his own company. He migrated to the US over 30 years ago.
In 2013, the Jamaica Government awarded him the Order of Distinction for his contribution to the development of the country's music.
Ronnie Nasralla is survived by his wife Rosemary, six children, six grandchildren, one brother and two sisters.
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