JIS News

Veteran Jamaican singer, Laurel Aitken, known as the “Godfather of Ska”, has died at the age of 78 in the United Kingdom (UK). Mr. Aitken, who was raised in Jamaica before migrating to the UK in 1960, died of a heart attack on July 17 in Leicester.
He was at the forefront of the Ska movement, and had the first recording released on the Island Records label. His musical career dated back to 1938 when, at the age of 11, he won the ‘Opportunity Knocks’ competition sponsored by Jamaican impresario, Vere Johns.
Jamaican bandleader and Jazz musician, Sonny Bradshaw said his death was a sad loss to music.
“He was a pioneer of popular Jamaican music. I was the first person to play his music on Teen Age Dance Party on JBC radio, and when he introduced the Jamaica Hit Parade, his record, Boogie in my Bones was the first Jamaican record to reach number one,” Mr. Bradshaw said.
Long time friend, Earl Robinson told JIS News that Mr. Aitken was an outstanding singer and good person.
“I have known Laurel Aitken from Jamaica days, when I was a young man. We used to call him Cubana and he used to play around the Gold Street area. He came to England in the 1960s when Millie Small’s big hit , ‘ My Boy Lollipop’ was all the rage. I knew him when I used to organize dances and shows in Leicester and he came and perform. He even met his wife at one of the dances, and he also lived not far from me and we always kept in touch,” he said.
His early singing career saw him entertaining tourists singing calypso for the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) at Kingston Harbour. During the early 1950s, he sang with all the big bands in Jamaica. Mr. Aitken produced and sang numerous early Ska hits and his ‘Little Sheila’ was said to be the first ever Jamaican-produced record to be sent to England.
When he moved to London in 1960, the demand for Jamaican music was growing. He travelled to perform extensively in Europe and had chart hits in Spain and Belgium.
The funeral for Mr. Aitken takes place on Thursday, July 28, at the Gilroes Cemetery. His wife Sandra, a daughter and a grand daughter survive him.