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Artist Hall of Fame

Hortense EllisText by Harry Hawks

Although female vocalists are not particularly well represented in Jamaican music Hortense Ellis is rightly regarded throughout the reggae world as one of the island’s finest ever singers…
Date Added: Oct 23, 2014, Date Updated: Jul 26, 2017 Copyright (C) 2019 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Real Name: Hortense Mahalia Ellis
Apr 18, 1941 - Oct 19, 2000
Place of Birth: Kingston
Jamaica
Related Artist(s):
Alton Ellis
Hortense Mahalia Ellis, born 18th April 1941, was the sister of Alton Ellis and her introduction to show business came through Vere Johns Junior's Opportunity Hour at the age of eighteen with her rendition of Frankie Lymon's 'I'm Not A Know It All'. She was immediately invited to return the following week...

"Alton Ellis and his sister Hortense! She was one of the greatest woman singers... she don't get recognition yet but some time to come she's going to get it. No other woman could sing like that girl. She was brilliant man! She could sing anything! Anything she sing with Jackie Edwards, Derrick Morgan or her brother... she was just brilliant. You understand?" Bunny Striker Lee

She then recorded for a number of prominent producers in the early sixties including Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd) with 'Eddie My Love' backed by 'Loving Girl' on Worldisc, Duke Reid with 'Hold Me Tenderly' and 'I've Been A Fool' on Treasure Isle and Prince Buster with 'Now And Forever More' on Wild Bells. In 1964 Hortense Ellis||| was voted Jamaica's Top Female Vocalist. She began touring as a featured singer with Byron Lee's Dragonaires but continued to record throughout the decade on memorable releases such as the wonderful rock steady 'Somebody Help Me' for Prince Buster and on duets with Alton including the delightful 'Easy Squeeze' for Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd.

After touring Canada with Alton in 1970 she returned to Kingston where she married Mikey 'Junior' Saunders the following year and recorded for Lee 'Scratch' Perry(Lee Perry) and Winston Riley as Mahalia Saunders. Her role as mother to their five children kept her busy during this period but her recordings 'Hell And Sorrow' for Jimmy Radway and her magnificently moody version of Marlena Shaw's 'Woman Of The Ghetto' for Clive Chin maintained her profile with the record buying public. In 1978 her beautiful adaptation of Tata Vega's, Barbra Streisand's or Jose Feliciano's (take your choice) 'Love Comes From The Most Unexpected Places', re-titled 'Unexpected Places', produced by Gussie Clarke(Augustus Gussie Clarke) and released on the Gussie 76 label was a huge hit in Jamaica and then again in the UK where it was released on Hawkeye. Why this record was not a huge crossover hit remains a complete mystery to this day. That year Althea & Donna achieved international success with 'Uptown Top Ranking', based around Alton Ellis' 'I'm Still In Love With You Girl', and Hortense, as Queen Tiney, deejayed a further version of the rhythm for Bunny 'Striker' Lee entitled 'Natty Dread Time'... "more cut... different fashion". But this particular version unfortunately only hit with regular reggae audiences.

During the eighties and the nineties Hortense relocated to the USA where she lived in New York and Miami. Her occasional live shows were mesmerising and I recall her charismatic character and clear voice cutting through an initially indifferent crowd then completely winning them over one night at London's Bouncing Ball Club. She was superb! She returned to Jamaica in 1989 but sadly Hortense Ellis did not enjoy good health and died in her sleep in Kingston on 19th October 2000.

There can be no denying that there are limited opportunities for women from Kingston's infamous ghettos, as exemplified in her empathetic version of 'Woman Of The Ghetto', but Hortense Ellis overcame these obstacles, and many others in the male dominated reggae business, with talent, pride and quiet dignity.
Oct 23, 2014 (Jul 26, 2017 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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Hit titles
Hortense Ellis - Last Stand
CD Hortense Ellis - Last Stand Cactus UK
  
¥1780 (US$16.28)
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Alton Ellis, Hortense Ellis - Alton & Hortense Ellis
CD Alton Ellis, Hortense Ellis - Alton & Hortense Ellis Heartbeat US/Studio One Info: Deleted
¥2180 (US$19.94)
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Hortense Ellis - Feelings
CD Hortense Ellis - Feelings All Tone UK
  
¥2580 (US$23.60)
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Alton Ellis, Hortense Ellis - Alton & Hortense Ellis (Side A-1: Skip)
LP Alton Ellis, Hortense Ellis - Alton & Hortense Ellis (Side A-1: Skip) Studio One
  
¥3280 (US$30.00)
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Alton Ellis, Hortense Ellis - I'm Still In Love With You (2LP)
LP Alton Ellis, Hortense Ellis - I'm Still In Love With You (2LP) Heartbeat US/Studio One
  
¥2880 (US$26.34)
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Hortense Ellis - Feelings
LP Hortense Ellis - Feelings All Tone UK
  
¥2680 (US$24.51)
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Hortense Ellis - I Shall Sing
7" Hortense Ellis - I Shall Sing Techniques I'll Be Right There
  
¥800 (US$7.32)
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Hortense Ellis - Woman Of The Ghetto (レーベル・ダメージ)
7" Hortense Ellis - Woman Of The Ghetto (レーベル・ダメージ) Impact US Woman Of The Ghetto
  
¥1080 (US$9.88)
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Hortense Ellis - Super Star
7" Hortense Ellis - Super Star Ja Man US
  
¥1280 (US$11.71)
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Hortense Ellis - We'll Cry Together
7" Hortense Ellis - We'll Cry Together Techniques
  
¥600 (US$5.49)
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Hortense Ellis, Johnny P - First Cut
7" Hortense Ellis, Johnny P - First Cut Pickout
  
¥900 (US$8.23)
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Recent arrival(s)
Hortense Ellis - Groovy Kind Of Love
7" Hortense Ellis - Groovy Kind Of Love / The Three Tops - A Man Of Chances Studio One/Dub Store Records JPN
  
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Best selling CD(s)
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CD Hortense Ellis - Feelings All Tone UK
  
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Best selling 7"(s)
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