Best Known For
Alton Ellis was a Jamaican singer and songwriter with a smooth vocal style, known widely as the "Godfather of Rocksteady," a slow, soulful Jamaican music genre.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Alton Nehemiah Ellis, better known as Alton Ellis, was born on September 1, 1938, in the Trenchtown area of Kingston, Jamaica. He was a prominent singer, songwriter, producer and concert promoter, referred to by many as the "Godfather of Rocksteady," a romantic, R&B-styled Jamaican music genre. Ellis died of multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer, on October 11, 2008, at the age of 70.
Alton Ellis was born on September 1, 1938, and grew up in Trenchtown, an impoverished area of Jamaica that was home to other leading musicians, including Bob Marley. Ellis excelled at both sports and music at the Boys' Town school, and made a habit of breaking into the school after hours to teach himself to play the piano. He and his younger sister, Hortense, started out like many other Jamaican performers, by competing on well-known talent shows like Vere John's Opportunity Hour.
The 1959, the R&B song "Muriel," which Ellis recorded as part of the duo Alton & Eddie and with producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, topped the Jamaican charts. Ellis was working as a construction worker at the time. Due to the success of "Muriel," he became a constant presence on Jamaica's music charts throughout the 1960s and early '70s.
Many of Ellis's follow-up tracks became instant classics, including the love songs "I'm Just A Guy," "Girl I've Got A Date" and "Get Ready Rock Steady," which started a dance craze in 1966 and became Ellis's signature tune. "Rocksteady" music was more like American R&B, producing songs of love and longing, and blazing a trail in a Jamaica dominated by hard-edged, horn-driven ska music and its spiritual, rebellious cousin, reggae. Ellis also used his distinctive tenor to infuse new life into cover versions of hits like Johnny Taylor's "Ain't That Loving You" and the Delfonics' "La La (Means I Love You)."
Ellis spent several months living in the United States and three years in Canada, finally moving to the United Kingdom in 1973, where he continued to record. In 1970, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the International Reggae and World Music Awards. In 1994, he received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government, in recognition of his contribution to the island's popular culture.
Ellis died of multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer, on October 11, 2008, in London. He was 70 years old at the time, and was given a state funeral in honor of the legacy he left to Jamaican music. He was survived by several children, 20 or more from different relationships, and many grandchildren.
© 2013 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
profile name: Alton Ellis profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
From Babylon to Zion, they are the international artists who have revolutionized reggae, a musical genre that originated in Jamaica in the 1960s. At that time, the genre took on a more pop-based sound. Over the past several decades, however, reggae music has transformed to include various sub-genres such as rocksteady, roots reggae and steppa. Our list of Reggae Artists includes musicians of various styles and experiences, from Rastafarians to raggamuffins to sapps, to everyday mon; read about world-renowned musicians like Toots Hibbert, Peter Tosh, Judge Dread, Alton Ellis and Bob Marley.
Reggae Artists 19 people in this group
Famous Virgoans 561 people in this group
Famous People Born in 1938 48 people in this group