Jamaican singer Millie Small, whose 1964 song “My Boy Lollipop” helped introduce ska music to the rest of the world, has died, a representative for her music label confirmed.
Small was born in Clarendon, Jamaica, the daughter of a sugar plantation overseer.Like many Jamaican singers of the era, her career began by winning the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour talent contest, which she won at the age of twelve.
Wishing to pursue a career as a singer she moved to live with relatives in Love Lane in Kingston.In her teens, she recorded a duet with Owen Grey in 1962 and later recorded with Roy Panton for Coxson Dodd’s Studio One as ‘Roy and Millie’.
They had a local hit with “We’ll Meet”
Chris Blackwell, who co-produced the song, paid tribute to the singer, describing her as ‘really special’.
He told the Jamaica Observer: ‘I would say she’s the person who took ska international because it was her first hit record.‘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 humor. She was really special. ’
My Boy Lollipop, recorded in 1964, became a huge hit and sold over six million records, taking ska to a worldwide audience. Small is survived by her 36-year-old daughter, Jaelee, who is also a singer.
“Millie Small was a true original, a wonderful human being and will be dearly missed by everyone,” social media users payed tribute to this great singer. One posted that She was a pioneer for Jamaican women in music. Other added that listening to her music is a joy and was a big hit at all family functions.
Island Records founder Mr Blackwell helped Small to further her singing career, with the songwriter travelling to London in 1963. Small was also popular for Oh Henry, Sweet William and Bloodshot Eyes. In an interview, Small once told that her life was very normal and she was blessed to have a manager like Chris in her career.