RIP Alton Ellis

RIP Alton Ellis
Alton Ellis, one of Jamaica’s iconic vocalists, has died at the age of 70.

Ellis was one of Jamaica’s earliest recording artists, first waxing a side in 1959 as part of the duo Alton and Eddie. He became a solo artist working for both the top labels on the island: Studio One and Treasure Isle. As ska’s popularity faded in the mid-’60s, one of his songs birthed a new genre: 1966’s "Rock Steady.” The following year, he recorded "Mad Mad,” whose bass line survived and thrived over the years, eventually being sampled by KRS-One, 2pac and Notorious B.I.G. After cutting some of his best ever work in the timeless early reggae style of Studio One, he moved to Canada.

Residing here for two years, he appeared on the Wayne McGhie and the Sounds Of Joy album, reissued by Light In The Attic’s Jamaica To Toronto series. His son, Noel Ellis, also had an album reissued in this series and continues to reside in Toronto.

Alton Ellis lived in England for the last three decades, where he worked steadily. He returned to Jamaica to work occasionally with Studio One boss Coxsone Dodd, often updating his past hits into new versions. In December 2007, he was admitted to hospital for cancer treatment. This year, one of his final recorded performances was issued on Toronto artist Dubmatix’s Renegade Rocker album.