Born Millicent Small in Clarendon, south Jamaica, she was one of seven brothers and five sisters raised on the sugar plantation where her father was an overseer.
At the age of 12, she won a talent contest at the Palladium Theatre in Montego Bay; and by her teens, she was recording for Sir Coxone Dodd’s Studio One label in Kingston.
There, she teamed up with reggae singer Roy Panton, and they became one of the island’s most prolific duos, scoring a major hit with We’ll Meet.
Chris Blackwell took an interest in the singer after releasing some of those records in the UK on his fledgeling record label, Island, and brought her to London in 1963.
Small was enrolled at the Italia Conti Stage School for speech training and dancing lessons, and she toured the UK before cutting My Boy Lollipop with a group of London session musicians.
Released in February 1964, it made her an international star at the age of 17 and helped popularise ska music around the world.
Six years later she was poking fun at Tory MP Enoch Powell on a righteous immigration anthem called Enoch Power (from her Time Will Tell LP).
Soon after she withdrew from the spotlight, quitting the music business altogether. In 2011, Jamaica’s Governor-General made Small a Commander in the Order of Distinction for her contribution to the Jamaican music industry.
Millie died in May 2020 died after suffering a stroke. She was 72.