(Millie poses with her LP. Credit: Getty Images)
Millie Small, known as the “Blue Beat Girl,” passed away on May 5 at the age of 73 due to complications from a stroke. A native of Jamaica, Small had been living in England since 1973.
Small was first discovered in a talent contest in Jamaica at the age of 12. Her first recordings, done in 1962 and 1963 when she was 16 and 17, were local hits in Jamaica; the best known of those was “We’ll Meet,” credited to Roy and Millie. (Roy was Roy Panton.)
That latter record got her noticed. In 1963 Small relocated to London, got some training in diction to soften her Jamaican accent, and started recording. Right out of the gate, her recording of “My Boy Lollipop” became a huge hit. It was a #2 record in both the UK and the US and #3 in Canada. (You see, in 1964 it was tough to get a #1 hit because of some other successful British group.)
While The Beatles kept her off the top of the charts, they did put Millie on television. She had a slot on the televised special Around the Beatles in the UK in 1964. But by 1965 Small’s time in the sun had come and gone. An interest in reggae music brought her back into the studio by 1969, but it didn’t yield hit records. Reports from the late 1980s indicated that Millie was broke, unable to cash in on her fleeting fame and living in a hostel in London.
You can call it a novelty record, you can call it sugary pop, but you can’t not call it fun. You can hear “My Boy Lollipop” by clicking here.