(CelebrityAccess) — Singer Millie Small, who helped to bring Jamaica’s Ska sound to British and American audiences, has died at the age of 72.
According to the BBC, Small died after suffering a stroke.
Small exploded onto the charts in 1964 when her single “My Boy Lollipop” which borrowed heavily from Jamaica’s distinctive ska music scene, peaked at #2 in both the UK and the U.S.
Small’s take on the song, which was originally recorded by New York singer Barbie Gaye in 1956, remains one of the best-selling ska hits, with more than 7 million in sales.
A native of Jamaica, Small achieved some local success after moving to Kingston to pursue a career in music. She recorded several regional hits and was discovered by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who brought her to the UK and produced her take on “My Boy Lollipop” highlighting Small’s rambunctious enthusiasm and childlike voice.
“I would say she’s the person who took ska international because it was her first hit record,” Blackwell told the Jamaica Observer following her passing.
“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,” he added.
Small recorded several more albums and scored a minor hit in 1964 with “Sweet William” but failed to achieve the same success as she found with “Lollipop” and in an interview in 1987, she revealed that she was destitute and living in a hostel with her young daughter.
In 2016, she told Goldmine’s Tom Graves that she had not received any royalties from the song.
Small had another UK chart placing in 1964 with Sweet William, which reached No 30, though that would be her only other Top 40 hit.