Singer Millie Small has sadly died at the age of 73, it has been confirmed.
The Jamaican musician, best known for the hit song My Boy Lollipop, died in the UK on Tuesday (5 May).
It’s reported that Millie suffered a stroke.
Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who co-produced the iconic single, announced her death and remembered the singer fondly, telling Jamaica Observer: ‘I would say she’s the person who took ska international because it was her first hit record.’
He recalled of Millie’s chart-topping 1964 single: ‘It became a hit pretty much everywhere in the world. I went with her around the world because each of the territories wanted her to turn up and do TV shows and such, and it was just incredible how she handled it.
‘She was such a sweet person, really a sweet person. Very funny, great sense of humour. She was really special.’
Millie, born Millicent Dolly May Small, was discovered by Blackwell at an early age and he flew her over to the UK in late 1963 when she was old enough to travel alone.
‘I hadn’t planned on being a star, but I always wanted to be a singer, and I felt like it was my destiny to go to England,’ Blackwell recalled.
The producer suggested that Millie record a cover of Barbie Gaye’s R&B song My Boy Lollipop, originally released in 1957.
It went on to become one of the biggest-selling reggae and ska singles of all time and sat behind only The Beatles as the third most successful song of 1964 – Paul McCartney and co. took the first two spots.
My Boy Lollipop featured Rod Stewart playing the harmonica in the background, and was played during the London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony.
Millie was also best known for the songs Sweet William and Bloodshot Eyes, as well as Oh Henry.
Recalling her meteoric rise to fame and move to England, Millie told the Daily Express in 2016: ‘I missed my parents and my brother, but they encouraged me to follow my dream.
‘I arrived in London in 1963, and it felt like I was coming home, that this was where I was meant to be.’
The musician continued: ‘I made a few songs, which didn’t go anywhere, and then I recorded My Boy Lollipop in 1964, which got to number two over here and number one in many parts of the world. I never had singing lessons, my voice was just something I was born with.
‘My life seemed very normal to me – even though I was only 17, I took fame in its stride. What helped was that I had a good manager in Chris, who looked after me like a father wherever I went.’
In 2011, Millie was honoured with the order of distinction in the rank of commander (CD) in her native Jamaica, for her contributions to the development of the island’s music industry.
Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga accepted the award on her behalf.
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