Skip to main content

English Beat Saxophonist Saxa Dies At 87 (Photo)

Saxa, saxophonist for British ska-pop band The Beat has died at the age of 87.

Lionel Augustus Martin, also known as Saxa, played saxophone in the band, which is also known as the English Beat, starting in the late 1970s, according to A Journal of Musical Things.

Saxa, who was born in Croft's Hill, Jamaica in 1930, was in his 40s and already an established session musician when he joined The Beat, Brooklyn Vegan reports. He had played with musicians including Laurel Aitken, Desmond Dekker and Prince Buster.

Image placeholder title

His first major appearance with The Beat was on the song "Tears of a Clown." He remained with the group for three albums, also touring with acts like R.E.M., David Bowie, Talking Heads, the Clash and the Police.

"Dear Saxa, thank you for your pure melody, your insights on music, love, and life, and for your constant kindness to me," wrote Beat frontman Dave Wakeling in a tribute to his former bandmate. "You now deserve to take your place as Top Tenor, First Chair, in St. Peters Orchestra, just as you had practiced for your whole life."

"Me love you Mr. Martin," Wakeling concluded.

Fellow Beat member Ranking Roger also offered a tribute to Saxa on social media.

"I am so very sad and sorry to have to announce to the world that the great Saxa passed away in his sleep last night," Roger wrote. "I am in tears and will miss you so much. Nobody could ever be like you."

"We will miss you dearly my mentor," Roger added.

"Sad to hear that good old Saxa has died, aged 87, after a life well-lived," said Horace Panter, of The Specials.

According to the band's website, The English Beat formed in 1979.

"When the English Beat rushed on to the music scene it was a time of social, political and musical upheaval," says the bio on the band's website. "Into this storm they came, trying to calm the waters with their simple message of love and unity set to a great dance beat."

"The band managed to fuse all of their respective musical influences -- soul, reggae, pop, and punk -- into a unique sound that was highly danceable," the bio continues. "Along with contemporaries such as the Specials, the Selecter and Madness, the English Beat became one of the most popular and influential bands of the British Two Tone Ska movement."

The group disbanded in 1983, and Saxa went on to play in the International Beat in the early 1990s, with English Beat drummer Everett Morton and singer Tony Beet, according to Diffuser.

The English Beat's original lineup, excluding members Andy Cox and David Steele, played a sold out show in 2003, at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The English Beat featuring Ranking Roger released an album in 2016, and the English Beat starring Dave Wakening is expected to release one in 2017.

Sources: Brooklyn Vegan, A Journal of Musical Things, Diffuser, English Beat / Photo credit: Gudka/Flickr, Brooklyn Vegan

Popular Video