Myself and the thousands of Jamaicans who considered Alton Ellis to be the island’s greatest proponent of Rocksteady music are in deep mourning today following his death in England last night.
It was in the midst of the final activity of the week-long celebrations of our Beijing Olympic Team that I received the news of Alton’s passing.
We will be eternally grateful to Alton who along with keyboardist Jackie Mittoo invented the Rocksteady beat in the mid-1960s. He popularized that era of Jamaican music and remained a celebrated performer for several decades.
It has also been written of the Rocksteady icon that many regarded him as the greatest and most soulful singer produced by Jamaica and the most popular before Bob Marley and the Wailers.
We will recall that Alton had fought valiantly before he succumbed to cancer. He had bounced back against the odds to continue his stage performances, headlining the “Get Ready to Rocksteady” concert sponsored by the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports earlier this year.
The event, which is being edited as a musical documentary highlighting the evolution of Rocksteady pays tribute to the work and legacy of Alton Ellis
He was a true pioneer whose creativity and inventiveness provided us with music to reflect on and music for dancing pleasure. This was amply demonstrated by hits such as “Arise Black Man”, Black Man’s Pride, “Blessing of Love” “Lord Deliver Us”, “Cry Tough” “Dance Crasher”, and “I am Still in Love with You”.
Even as we mourn the great Alton Ellis, we must give thanks for his monumental contribution to the development of Jamaica’s popular music.
On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I wish to extended condolences to his family, friends and his associates and fans here in Jamaica and elsewhere in the world.
May his soul rest in peace.

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