Millie Small, Ja's first big star
PassageMonday, December 28, 2020
By Howard Campbell
The Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk continues its daily look at entertainment personalities who left us in 2020.
TO get Jamaican music on the international map, a big star was needed. And in 1964 none shone brighter than Millie Small, a precocious 18-year-old singer from Clarendon.
That year she made the top 10 in the United Kingdom and United States with her cover of My Boy Lollipop, a catchy sing along that catapulted her, and ska, to fame.
Small died in May in London at age 73. A recluse for many years, she had reportedly been hospitalised after suffering a stroke.
Her role as a trailblazer was hailed by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records which distributed My Boy Lollipop in the UK.
“She was such a sweet person, really a sweet person. Very funny, great sense of humour. She was really special,” said Blackwell.
Like many artistes with big hit songs early in their careers, Small never duplicated the success of My Boy Lollipop, which was originally done by American singer Barbie Gaye eight years earlier.
She did set the pace for other Jamaican acts who had massive hits in the UK like Desmond Dekker, Dave Barker and Ansell Collins, John Holt, Ken Boothe, Junior Murvin and Boris Gardiner.
For that, reggae is eternally grateful.
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