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 the age of 71.
No official cause of death has been reported.
“It is with great sadness that we must announce the passing of Everett Morton, a magnificent and talented man,” read a statement. Tweeter of the group announcing the news. “Her family is naturally in mourning. Thank you for respecting their privacy RIP GAFFAH!”
“He was a true gentleman, soft-spoken, charming, always supportive and always there for people,” said Pete Chambers, curator of the Coventry Music Museum. “Unlike many drummers, Everett played the entire kit, creating an ever-evident tapestry of rhythm on every Beat track.
Morton was born in St. Kitts and moved to Birmingham, England in the mid-1960s when he was still a teenager. He joined a drum school and started playing with his cousin’s band, and soon after he was recruited by local bands. In 1978, Morton joined Dave Wakeling, David Steele, Andy Cox, Saxa and Ranking Roger to form the Beat.
A year later, the group signed with Coventry’s 2-Tone Records label. Their first single, a cover of “Tears of a Clown / Ranking Full Stop” by Smokey Robinson, was released in 1979 and reached No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart. Reinforced by Morton’s distinctive syncopated drum style, the Beat set itself apart from the 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 said of the mix of techniques employed by The Beat. “Everett Morton was a left-handed drummer; he had his kit set up as a right-handed drummer but played it left-handed. It was an original style and if you worked with it, it sounded really unique.”
The Beat then launched their own label, Go-Feet, on which they released their debut album, 1980’s I can’t stop it. The LP produced several must-see future sets 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, What is it?, in 1981 and supported him with an extensive tour of the United States alongside the Pretenders and Talking Heads. Their latest album, Special beat service, followed in 1982 and featured one of the band’s best-known hits, “Save it for Later”. During their first five-year tenure, The Beat also toured around the world alongside artists like The Clash, the Police, REM and David Bowie.
“Bowie [came] in a dressing room just to see us, and Saxa didn’t know who he was, ”Morton recalled in a recent interview, recalling a pair of gigs the band opened for Bowie on their Serious tour. Moonlight. “Saxa asked him to go get the beers.”
After the Beat disbanded in 1983, Morton and Saxa formed the International Beat, led by singer Tony Beet. The band released an album, 1991’s The striking line, which was produced by Ranking Roger. In the mid-2000s, Roger and Morton reunited 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
In memory of the musicians, actors, producers and others who died in 2021.