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|Birth Name||Alton Nehemiah Ellis|
|Born||1 September 1938|
|Died||10 October 2008
Alton Ellis OD (born Alton Neamiah Ellis, 1944 in Kingston, Jamaica) is a musician best known as one of the innovators of Rocksteady music.
In 2006, he was inducted into the International Reggae And World Music Awards Hall Of Fame. Alton Ellis started his career in 1959 as part of the duo Alton & Eddie with Eddie Perkins. Ellis and Perkins recorded for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One before Perkins moved to the United States. Duke Reid took Ellis to his Treasure Isle label in 1962.
By the mid 1960s, ska was moving on and the beat was slowing down and becoming associated with the rude boy subculture in Jamaican Dancehalls. Recording with a backing trio, The Flames (consisting of his brother Leslie Ellis, David “Baby G” Gordon and Winston Jarrett), Alton Ellis scored big with the hits “Girl I’ve Got a Date”, “Cry Tough” and “Rock Steady”, which lent its name to the newer genre. As Rocksteady dominated the Jamaican airwaves for the next two years, Ellis continued to score hits for Treasure Isle, working with artists such as Lloyd Charmers, Phyllis Dillon and The Heptones.The “Mad Mad” riddim, first recorded by Alton Ellis in 1967 would later be recycled in more than one hundred other songs.
The instantly recognizable three-note descending horn line was reinterpreted by Henry “Junjo” Lawes and eventually became known widely as the “Diseases” reggae riddim. “Diseases” is notably utilized in Yellowman’s hit song “”Zungguzungguguzungguzeng”, which has in turn has been sampled and reinterpreted by a long list of popular hip hop artists including KRS One, The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur and Blackstar. This constant reinterpretation and referencing has made Ellis a major but little-known influence in the trajectory of Dancehall, Reggae and Hip Hop.
Alton Ellis has lived in England since the 1970s, and is still active on the reggae scene. In December 2007, he was admitted to hospital in London for treatment of cancer of the lymph glands.
He is the younger brother of the late Hortense Ellis, and the father of Noel Ellis and Christopher Ellis, who are both Reggae singers.