Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who originally produced the song, told the Jamaican Observer that she died from a stroke.
Recorded as Millie, My Boy Lollipop reached No. 2 in the UK and the United States, Blackwell recalling: “It became a success almost everywhere in the world … and that was it just amazing how she handled it. She was such a nice person. Very funny, great sense of humor. She was really special. “
Small was born in 1946 in the parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, and began his recording career in his mid-teens, cutting out singles for the island’s legendary Studio One label. Blackwell discovered her after her duo with Roy Panton, We’ll Meet, topped the Jamaican charts and, with the permission of her parents, became her manager and moved her to the United Kingdom. “It felt like I was coming home, it was where I should be,” she recalls in 2016, never having returned to Jamaica.
She recorded My Boy Lollipop shortly after moving to London, a song originally recorded by New York singer Barbie Gaye in 1956. The American R&B “shuffle” style used by Gaye had become popular in the Caribbean and was transformed into ska; Small’s sweet, charming, high-pitched voice, combined with the novelty of the new unknown style, made My Boy Lollipop a huge success. Besides its transatlantic success, it has also surpassed the Australian charts.
In a 2016 interview, she claimed that Rod Stewart was playing the harmonica on the song – “I can see him now at the studio, leaning against the wall. Cute little boy. A very nice guy “- although Stewart said session player Pete Hogman played it. Small also claimed in 2016 that she had received no royalties for My Boy Lollipop.
Small had another UK ranking in 1964 with Sweet William, who reached No. 30, although this was his only other Top 40 success.
Her recording career ended in 1970 and she moved to Singapore. She reappeared on a London report in 1987, poor and living in a youth hostel with a young girl. Speaking in 2016, she said, “I focused on being a mother from 1984, when my daughter was born, and since then I have been happy to live a quiet life, to sleep, to dream and meditate. “