Saturday, May 9, 2020

Millie Small, Big Loss

This week has had nothing but terrible news about titans of popular music. I will definitely post about Little Richard's death, but that post is going to involve hunting down a bunch of links. Tonight, I am going to commemorate a singer who could be seen as a 'one hit wonder', but her one hit was a titanic smash worldwide. Jamaican-born singer Millie Small died of a stroke at the age of 72. She is primarily known for her 1964 bluebeat/ska rendition of doo-wop song My Boy Lollipop, with arrangement and rhythm guitar work by Bastard fave Ernest Ranglin. The teenaged Ms Small's cheery warble and wholesome charisma catapulted her to the top ten throughout the anglophone world. The song's appeal is immediately apparent on one listen:

With this one song, the first song by a Jamaican artist to become an international hit, Millie Small opened the door for other artists, such as Desmond Dekker, Phyllis Dillon, and Bob Marley, Prince Buster, Toots Hibbert, and John Holt. The next big boost for a second wave of Jamaican music worldwide was the 1972 release of The Harder they Come.

Millie Small was also instrumental in the rise of Island Records, which grew to become a music juggernaut.

Ms Small didn't shy away from political content, releasing a musical rebuttal to racist politician Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood', countering it with the observation about Jamaicans living in England: They work all week to keep the British country running. The song begins with a brilliant musical accusation that Powell is a fascist:

Millie Small's discography might not be very extensive, but her affect on popular music was enormous. Her international ska ambassadorship ultimately paved the way for artists playing a succession of musical styles, such as rocksteady and reggae, and hip-hop.


Anathema Device said...

A sad week for music. I love "My boy lollipop" but knew nothing of the woman behind it. She had some balls to release that Enoch Power song, considered how rampant racism is in Britain *now*, let alone when Powell was still kicking about.

Rest in power, Millie Small.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

She really forced the world to take notice of Jamaican music. Even with that one song, she had a lasting effect on the music industry worldwide.

BroD said...

So that's how it started. Thanks for the data point and the musical interludes. !

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It's like contact tracing, BroD, but in a good way.