Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
'Mr Rocksteady' Alton Ellis returned with a bang at Stars R Us, held at Mas Camp on Tuesday, August 4. - Colin Hamilton
A musical legend he was. Condolences have been pouring in following the news of Alton Ellis' death.
Ellis was at the peak of his career in 1967 when he recorded I'm Still in Love for producer Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd at Studio One. It was one of many hits he recorded during that decade, which earned him the undisputed title of 'Godfather of Rocksteady'.
Sadly, Ellis died Friday at the Hammersmith Hospital in London; 10 months after he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He was 70 years old.
Fellow veteran singer Derrick Morgan, Ellis' friend for many years, said he was in shock at the news of his death.
"It was really shocking, but I knew he was going. He was sickly with his heart and the cancer only complicated it," said Morgan.
"I was following up with him from London when he first got sick and I called him up. I told him not to give up because I am sickly myself and he took my advice."
However, Morgan said he thought Ellis was performing on too many shows in the last months of his life. Hence, he told him to do less.
But Alton Ellis was a man that loved music and he loved to perform.
This is confirmed by promoter Marvin 'Horseman' Pitterson, who also said Ellis was very professional.
"He was a nice, easy going guy. He was not a problem to work with at all. He was very quiet. If you see him backstage he is just humble and quiet, but when him go on-stage him just explode," said Horseman, while noting that Ellis has been his friend for many years.
He said Ellis has done at least 17 of his Stars R' Us shows; the last one was in August.
As a tribute, Horseman will host a show on November 8 to show his respect to the artiste. The show will feature foundation artistes like Glen Washington, Pam Hall, Ken Boothe, Derrick Morgan, Jimmy Riley, Ernie Smith, Nicky Dillon and Jah Thomas.
Musician Sly Dunbar, from the musical duo Sly and Robbie, said Ellis was one of his favourite singers, one who he has been listening to since he was a child. He said he received a lot of advice from Ellis.
"I learnt so much from him as a musician because he was a musician himself. The way he conducts himself when it comes to work, very professional," he told THE STAR.
Ernie Smith also grew up listening to the crooning of Alton Ellis.
"I was still in school when I was hearing Alton on the radio. He inspired me. He was into quality and he always sounded good on record. He inspired me to have the same standards," Smith said. "We are really going to miss him. He was a gentleman, really kind person. Fortunately we still have his music."
But Ellis' music will also continue to live on through a cover version of I'm Still In Love that was done by Sasha and Sean Paul.
Sasha said she was stunned by the news of his death and even about the illness.
"I was shocked. I was in a pharmacy and I saw the front page (of THE STAR). I couldn't believe. It took a toll on me," she said.
Sasha reminisced on the days she went to Sly and Robbie's studio and saw Ellis. She said she loved his songs and hailed him as an icon and ambassador for the local music industry.
His nephew, Owen 'Blakka' Ellis, himself an entertainer, told The STAR that funeral arrangements are currently being discussed with the Jamaican government. Details will be released soon.
Derrick Morgan says Alton Ellis loved performing. - file
'He inspired me', says Ernie Smith.
Sly Dunbar of the duo Sly and Robbie says Ellis was the consummate professional.
'He was an icon' - Sasha
Famed Comedian Owen 'Blakka' Ellis sent this small tribute to The STAR about his uncle, moments after the passing was confirmed.
Happier Times: Alton Ellis stands between his nephews Owen 'Blakka' Ellis (left) and Aston at the International Comedy Festival On the Roof of the Portmore Plaza on Saturday, June 28, 2008. - Peta-Gaye Clachar
My cousins tell me that one of the last words he uttered was 'why' and I'm asking the Almighty why, why so many good people have to die
I think I feel too numb to think, heart full and my eyes too tired to cry
I was about to sleep but the news got me out of bed now,
Uncle Alton's words are stuck in my head...
Why birds follow spring, like the sun follows the rainbow?
and why some people sing, while others bow their heads in sorrow?
Why some trees, oh why some trees are so tall, while others stay small?
Why yesterday, like today follows tomorrow?
This tribute was sent to The STAR by Fitzroy Ellis, Alton's grand-nephew.
Alton Ellis, A Legend.
Once I was just an acorn.
A seed that my father planted, and watered from his fountain of blessing.
He causeth me to take deep roots so that I'd be firm and strong.
To grow with the years as they go along.
I dance with the wind, and my leaves sing melodic songs.
Along with the Nightingales sitting on my branches.
Such soothing sounds I brought to thee.
Near and far they know of me.
For once I was just an acorn, a seed that my father planted that became an oak tree still growing with the years as they go along.
- Fitzroy Noel Ellis, aka Ras-Noel.