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MILLIE SMALL,
1947-2020

Millie Small, the Jamaican singer who delivered the first international hit for Chris Blackwell’s Island Records with “My Boy Lollipop,” died Tuesday after suffering a stroke. Small was 72.

Blackwell announced her death. Island Records gave her age as 72, though numerous outlets reported she was 73.

“Millie opened the door for Jamaican music to the world," he said in a statement. "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 really sweet person, very funny, great sense of humour. She was really special.” 

“My Boy Lollipop,” which went to #2 in the U.S. and the U.K. in 1964, introduced ska and reggae to pop radio, though most listeners would not identify the style until its popularity grew in the 1970s. The single is considered one of the biggest-selling ska songs of all time.

Blackwell was in the process of building Island beyond Jamaica when he took Small to London in 1963 to record her. As a teenager, she had been recording for Sir Coxone Dodd's Studio One label as a duo with Roy Panton; their 1962 single, “We’ll Meet,” was an early local hit for Island.

Small, who also worked as an actress, returned to the charts only one other time,  “Sweet William,” which peaked at #40 in the fall of 1964.

She continued to record for Island until 1970, moving to Trojan Records. After the 1970 album Time Will Tell was released, Small chose to step away from music. She lived in Singapore, New Zealand and London, writing, painting and raising her daughter, Jaelee.

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