This article is part of a series of posts celebrating Blackness, Black artists, and the Black musical Diaspora.
A towering figure in Jamaican music, Alton Ellis was born in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica on September 1, 1938.
He pioneered an antecedent to reggae music called rock steady, starting a dance craze of the same name with his 1966 single “Get Ready Rock Steady.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Dennis Alcapone had this to say about Alton’s impact.
Alton was a bigger artist in Jamaica than Bob Marley. Everybody, even Bob, would love if he could sing like Alton Ellis. All of them would sit back and listen to Alton because Alton was the king.
Despite his outsize influence on global R&B music, Ellis was maltreated by the music industry. According to his business partner Trish de Rosa (quoted in the same New York Times article), Ellis only received a check for his massively influential song “I’m Still In Love With You” weeks before his death in 2008.
Listen to this mix by our Music Writing Director Aida Rogers to commemorate his legacy. It heavily features Alton’s music, in addition to other tracks in the tradition of rocksteady and reggae. I love you baby!