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The English Beat saxophonist Saxa, RIP

Saxa (left) with The English Beat

Saxa, who was saxophonist for 2-Tone era band ska-pop band The (English) Beat, has died at age 87. Born Lionel Augustus Martin, Saxa was nearing 50 and an already established Jamaican session musician when he was recruited by band. His melodic style was a crucial part of The Beat’s sound — maybe the the most distinctive part — and never wandered into the treacly Sandborn territory that is so associated with pop/rock saxophone of the era. His sound also remained the through-line as The Beat went from post-punky ska, into reggae territory on their second album, to the breeze pop of 1982’s Special Beat Service. When the Beat broke up, Saxa played on records by both splinter groups, Fine Young Cannibals and General Public, and went on to play in The International Beat and other groups.

Saxa, you will be missed but your music lives on. Rest in Peace.

Read tributes to Saxa from original  Beat frontmen Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, along with others, and listen to some of his best-known songs, below.

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