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Reggae music pioneer Alton Ellis, known as the godfather of rocksteady, has died at the age of 70 in London, England.

Officials at Hammersmith Hospital announced Sunday morning that Ellis, who had cancer of the lymph glands, died peacefully Friday night after he had been hospitalized for several weeks.

"His life was the music and the stage," said his manager Trish De Rosa.

'He was a seminal figure in terms of popularizing Jamaican reggae music ? His death is a terrible loss.'

? Laurence Cane-Honeysett, Trojan Records"He was getting a tremendous amount of work right up to the end ? it was very difficult to get him to slow down."

Ellis collapsed during a club performance in London in August and never recovered his health, according to his record company, Trojan Records.

"He was a genuinely lovely man and his songs were heartfelt," noted Laurence Cane-Honeysett, Jamaican music consultant for Trojan Records

"He was a seminal figure in terms of popularizing Jamaican reggae music.? His death is a terrible loss."

Cane-Honeysett said there's talk of Jamaica providing a state funeral, but no details have been released by Ellis's family.

Jump-started the rocksteady genre

Ellis had a string of hits in Jamaica. At the start of his career, he fronted the Flames, which had several chart toppers including Dance Crasher, I'm Just a Guy and Sunday Coming.

The performer was popular in the early days of reggae, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, recording for many Jamaican producers before launching his own All-tone label.

Ellis popularized the rocksteady genre in the mid-1960s with his song Rock Steady. Rocksteady relies on vocal harmonies and has a slower tempo and heavier bass. The style is seen as a successor to Jamaican ska, which has a quicker backbeat.

Ellis moved to Canada and then to England in the 1970s. In the past 15 years, with the revival of the rocksteady trend in Europe, he began performing again.

In 1994, he was awarded the Order of Distinction by Jamaica, and in 2006, he was inducted into the International Reggae and World Music Awards Hall Of Fame.

Fellow Jamaican singer Delroy Williams, a friend since the 1960s, described Ellis's voice as "the sweetest in the reggae world."

"He was very humble," he said.

"His music is the reason for a lot of babies ? that's how sweet and warm and loving it is."

Ellis, who lived in the London suburb of Northolt, is survived by his wife and more than 20 children, including reggae singers Noel Ellis and Christopher Ellis.

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