Millie Small the singer most famous for the international hit single, My Boy Lollipop which peaked atop both the UK and US charts in 1964 died on May 6.
The hit single which skyrocketed Small into the spotlight remains one of the best selling ska songs of all time and the first international hit for the
ska music genre.
Small, was just a teenager of 16, in 1963 when Island Records founder, Chris Blackwell decided to become her manager and bring her to the UK. With her mother’s permission granted, Blackwell became the teen’s guardian and took her from her the small Caribbean island of Jamaica to London. Small would go on to become the first female recording artist hailing from the Caribbean to score a top international hit for the label.
“I would say she’s the person who took ska international because it was her first hit record,” Blackwell tells they Jamaica Observer .
The singer, born Millicent Small, won a talent contest at aged 12 and by her early teens was recording with the famed Sir Coxsone Dodd at his Studio One label in Kingston, Jamaica.
Blackwell who travelled with Millie around the world recalled his time with the singer.
“Each of the territories wanted her to turn up and do TV shows and such, and it was just incredible how she handled it,” says Blackwell .
“She was such a sweet person, really a sweet person. Very funny, great sense of humour. She was really special,” adds Blackwell.
After the success of My Boy Lollipop, Millie was not able to follow up with another song to rival it’s success. Quitting the music industry in 1970 she relocated to Singapore then New Zealand. Fading from the limelight she reappeared in a 1987 Thames TV news brief alongside her then toddler daughter Jaelee revealing that they were residing in a hostel. That same year Island Records reissued My Boy Lollipop as part of it’s 25th year celebration.
In a August 20, 2016, story titled ‘Where Are They Now’ published in the Daily Mail Express the singer is quoted looking back on her career, leaving the music industry and being a mom.
“I arrived in London in 1963, and it felt like I was coming home, that this was where I was meant to be.
“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.”
“I focused on being a mother from 1984, when my daughter was born, and since then I’ve been happy living a quiet life, sleeping and dreaming and meditating.
“I enjoy cooking – anything with chicken, pork and fish with rice – and watching documentaries. I’ve got five beautiful cats, too.
“I don’t miss those 60s days. I enjoyed it while it lasted and it represented a time of pure happiness but I look to the future now that I’m older and wiser.
“I love music – reggae, hip-hop, anything that’s got rhythm. And I still play My Boy Lollipop because it’s a lovely record.
“My daughter and I are very close and I’m proud of her achievements as a writer, singer and musician; it would be nice for us to sing together one day as mother and child.”
Reflection s and praises of Millie poured in on social media and from many globally. Jamaican Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, the Hon. Olivia Grange issued a press release stating, “Millie’s story is one of resilience and the strength of the human spirit. She took the sweet with the bitter as she navigated the music industry at a time when Jamaican music and Jamaican female artistes were still new concepts to the world.”
Grange added , “Jamaica will remain eternally grateful to Millie Small as she paved the way for Ska to explode on the world scene through numerous television appearances around the world, including the BBC’s Top of the Pops. Her unique sound attracted audiences around the world and turned attention on Jamaican music, which allowed other genres to break through internationally.”