Alton Ellis, the Jamaican singer known as "The Godfather of Rocksteady", passed away Friday, October 10 at Hammersmith Hospital in London. He was 70 years old.
According to an AP report citing hospital officials, "Ellis died peacefully," and "his family did not wish to release details." However, an obituary on the Trojan Records site points to a longstanding battle with cancer of the lymph glands as the cause of Ellis' death.
Ellis rose to prominence in Jamaica as a ska singer for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One label in the early 60s, but his most influential contributions to Jamaican music came with his jump to Arthur "Duke" Reid's Treasure Isle in the mid-60s. It was there that Ellis pioneered rocksteady, which preceded reggae by slowing down the tempo of ska, putting more direct focus on the bass, and aping the sweeter, lighter singing style of American R&B stars.
Both solo and with his vocal group the Flames, Ellis' hits for included "I'm Still in Love With You", "Get Ready - Rock Steady", "Cry Tough", "Girl I've Got a Date", "My Willow Tree", and "Dance Crasher".
In the 70s, Ellis moved to England, where he started his own Alltone label and record store. In 2006, he was inducted in the International Reggae and World Music Awards Hall of Fame.
"I'm Still in Love With You"
"Get Ready - Rock Steady"