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The Beat Drummer Everett Morton Dead at 71

Everett Morton, a prominent ska drummer who was best known for his work with the Beat — the English Beat, as known to American fans — has died at age 71.

No official cause of death has been reported.

“It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of Everett Morton, a beautiful and talented man,” read a tweet from the band announcing the news. “His family are naturally grieving. Please respect their privacy RIP GAFFAH!”

“He was a true gentleman, gently spoken, charming, always supportive and always there for people,” said Pete Chambers, curator of Coventry Music Museum. “Unlike many drummers, Everett played the whole kit, creating a tapestry of rhythm always evident on every Beat track.”

Morton was born in St. Kitts moved to Birmingham, England, in the mid ’60s when he was still a teenager. He joined a drum school and began playing with his cousin’s band, and before long, he was being recruited by local groups. In 1978, Morton joined Dave Wakeling, David Steele, Andy Cox, Saxa and Ranking Roger to form the Beat.

A year later, the band signed with Coventry’s 2-Tone Records. Their first single, a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown/Ranking Full Stop,” was released in 1979 and reached No. 6 on the U.K. Singles Chart. Boosted by Morton’s distinctive syncopated style of drumming, the Beat set themselves apart from popular British punk bands of the era, incorporating elements of reggae, ska, Motown and Latin music.

Watch Everett Morton Perform ‘Tears of a Clown’ with the Beat in 1979

“David Steele was a punk with a clear idea of what he wanted and where he was going,” Wakeling once said of the blend of techniques employed by the Beat. “Everett Morton was a left-handed drummer; he had his kit set up like a right-handed drummer but played it left-handed. His was an original style and if you worked with it, it sounded real unique.”

The Beat then launched their own record label, Go-Feet, on which they released their debut album, 1980’s I Just Can’t Stop It. The LP yielded several future set list staples, including “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “Mirror In the Bathroom,” “Hands Off…She’s Mine” and “Best Friend.”

The Beat released their second album, Wha’ppen?, in 1981 and supported it with an extensive U.S. tour alongside the Pretenders and Talking Heads. Their final album, Special Beat Service, followed in 1982 and featured one of the band’s best-known hits, “Save it for Later.” During their initial five-year tenure, the Beat also toured globally alongside artists like the Clash, the Police, R.E.M. and David Bowie.

“Bowie [came] into a dressing room just to see us, and Saxa didn’t know who he was,” Morton remembered in a recent interview, recalling a pair of shows at which the band opened for Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour. “Saxa asked him to go and get the beers.”

After the breakup of the Beat in 1983, Morton and Saxa went on to form the International Beat, which was fronted by vocalist Tony Beet. The band released an album, 1991’s The Hitting Line, which was produced by Ranking Roger. In the mid 2000s, Roger and Morton reunited along with keyboardist Dave Wright and performed together until Roger’s death in 2019.

Watch Everett Morton Perform ‘Save it for Later’ with the Beat in 1982

In Memoriam: 2021 Deaths

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