Calypso Musician, The Honorable Byron Lee OJ, has died in the Tony Thwaites Wing of the University Hospital of the West Indies earlier today.
Lee, who was 73, had been fighting transitional cell cancer and was being treated in Miami Florida. He was also diagnosed with bladder cancer two years ago.
A statement issued to the media, via email from his daughter Juliana Lee-Samuels, read “The family of the Hon Byron Lee Sr. OJ, regretfully confirm that he passed away peacefully today. He fought a very brave battle with cancer and was in hospital surrounded by his family and close friends. He will be remembered not only as an excellent musician but as a very kind, generous, humble and talented man who was always working to use music to unite persons of all ages, races and people from all walks of life.”
Lee was born in Manchester on June 27, 1935 to parents Oscar Lee and Evelyn Chung-Lee.
He was educated at Mount St Joseph School in Mandeville, where he learned music, then later attended St. George’s College in Kingston.
The musician founded the Byron Lee and the Dragonaires band in 1956 at the age 20 and recorded several ska and calypso songs, including “Tiny Winey.”
The band soon signed with the West Indies Recording Limited label owned by then future Prime Minister Edward Seaga, and in 1964 Lee bought the label.
His Kingston studio would later attract musicians including The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton.
On Sunday, October 26th he was conferred with the Order of Jamaica for outstanding service to the music industry in a special ceremony at the hospital.
Lee had been previously conferred with the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander in 2007.
Other awards Lee received include the Silver Musgrave medal for his contribution to music in 1978 and the Institute of Jamaica Centenary Medal for the development of music in Jamaica in 1981.
Mr. Lee is survived by his wife and six children.