Millie Small's global hit song "My Boy Lollipop" was one of most visible manifestations of the influence of Caribbean migrants' music on the British music scene. The Jamaican singer has died at the age of 73.
Small started her music career in Jamaica, before Island Records founder Chris Blackwell became her manager and took her to the U.K. Like so many West Indians of her generation, Small had grown up in a British colony. Jamaica had only become independent two years before. The education system was entirely British.
Unlike earlier arrivals from the West Indies in the 1940s and 50s, Small immediately felt comfortable. She reminisced in 2016, “It felt like I was coming home, that this was where I was meant to be.” And it was where she stayed. She never returned to the island of her birth.
But her music was born of the rich mix of influences that created the Jamaican musical sound, and which in turn influenced the British music scene.
"My Boy Lollipop" was her first single, aged just 16, and a massive hit, making it to Number 2 in the U.K. and the U.S.A. and remaining a classic to this day, with more than seven million copies sold.
"My Boy Lollipop" brought ska into the mainstream. Ska is a Jamaican fusion of rhythm 'n' blues, Cuban mambo and Jamaican mento folk music. It had a very catchy rhythm that set people's feet tapping.
Small's fresh, infectious vocals ensured the single's success but it turned out to be the height of her career. She made several more singles but only one reached the charts. Ska, however, had a long and successful career in the UK, picked up by "two-tone" groups like The Specials, Selector, and Madness.
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