Millie Small: Pioneer and Icon

Millie Small (6 October 1947 – 5 May 2020) wax a great revelation to the WindRush’s 1st generation, during a time when the dancehall and music was the rage around London. Her music lives on through their children; like me. (Jennifer Valentine-Miller)

The journey of Millie Small was steered initially by Coxone Dodd’s label, then Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. “My Boy Lollipop” put Island Records on course to become an influential record label with an excellent musical reputation. In 1964 it was the fuse for Jamaican SKA music, her track went Global making history & developed the foundational structures of Jamaican Reggae Music. The Record Collector Magazine reported that the no. 1 hit singe was “equivalent of Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel or the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen. The song popularised a sound previously considered to be on the margins of mainstream consciousness”.

After leaving Island Records in 1970, she recorded for legendary reggae label Trojan Records, where her first single was a cover of Nick Drake’s “Mayfair”. However, it was the b-side that attracted greater attention “Enoch Power”, it was a defiant response to Enoch Powell’s inflammatory, anti-immigration “Rivers of Blood” speech. Small’s lyrics captured the mood of the UK’s Caribbean population, and also received a rapturous response when she played the song at the Caribbean Music Festival at Wembley Arena, a month after its release. Her iconic “Millie and Boyfriends” album, Small was never able to replicate the success of “My Boy Lollipop”, scoring only one further chart hit with “Oh, Henry”. Despite, she continued to tour and record, and appeared frequently on pop shows like Juke Box Jury and Ready Steady Go. Chris Blackwell from Island Records is quoted to have said, “She was such a sweet person, really a sweet person. Very funny, great sense of humour. She was really special,”.