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Legendary entertainer Count Prince Miller passes away

R.I.P: Clarence ‘Count Prince’ Miller

LEGENDARY ENTERTAINER of the stage and film, Clarence ‘Count Prince’ Miller passed away in London, England today (Aug 16) age 83. He had been ailing for some time before his illness from cancer took a turn for the worst earlier this month.

He was a giant of Jamaican entertainment. Whether it was for his iconic record Mule-train, for his pivotal role in the ground-breaking Caribbean Music Festivals at Wembley in 1969 and 1970, his association with James Bond movies, or a score of musical, compere or acting activities in numerous countries, Miller was at the core of Jamaican entertainment for over six decades.

Clarence Linberg Miller was born at Port Maria, St Mary in March 1935. Although he trained to be a laboratory assistant, Count, as he was known from a young age, decided that his future lay in music. He was determined to keep going even though he failed his first big opportunity at one of Vere Johns’ celebrated talent auditions.

It was the filming of the James Bond story “Dr No” in Jamaica that sparked the interest of the England entertainment industry in the music of the island. Count Prince’s appearance in the Bond film in which he played a frenzied night-club dancer, may have been only brief but it had a great influence on his career because of the strength of that performance he was invited to come to England.

Eventually Count Prince Miller came to London with Jimmy James and the Vagabonds in the early 1960s. The Vagabonds toured extensively in England and throughout Europe. Promoters who usually regarded Jamaican artistes with suspicion because of their poor record of punctuality were impressed by the group’s practice of arriving early.

Miller was also an easily recognisable figure in the London-based black club scene of the 1960s which revolved around the Cue Club on Praed Street, Paddington run by his friend Count Suckle.

Even so, in spite of his impressive stature, Count Prince owed much of his stand-out personality to his voice – and to one particular song. He always gave credit to his compatriot Ed Lewis – producer, entertainer, dramatist and the first half of the comic partnership Bim and Bam for persuading him to take up the song Mule-train.

Together they changed it from the ballad associated with Frankie Laine into a full throttle number which giving vent to Miller’s vocal power and provided the images of some powerful album covers and, more recently, videos.

Count Prince Miller’s energy and showmanship, which has been described as being “the spark that ignites our social moods”, was the only possible person who could compere the Caribbean Music Festival extravaganza at the Empire Pool, Wembley on September 21, 1969. It was the first time that the leading stars of West Indian music, then riding the crest of reggae popularity, had been brought together on the same stage.

Count Prince Miller was a proud Jamaican and the government recognised his contribution to the Jamaican entertainment industry when he was given the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) from Governor-General Sir Kenneth Hall at the National Sports Centre in Kingston in October 2007.

Count Prince wore the decoration at all appropriate occasion, especially at the annual Service of Thanksgiving for Jamaican Independence held in London, which he only rarely missed.

Count Price Miller’s career enjoyed a late renaissance when he was a regular in the popular TV series Desmonds where he played ‘Vince’ alongside the star of the show Norman Beaton. He also appeared in the stage musical ‘Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame’ where he took the role of Marcus Garvey as it toured England and the USA.

Later on he mastered his prime role as performer/compere in The J.A. Story stage-show written and produced by J.D. Douglas in 2010 and the release of his record Jamaica to mark the island’s 50th anniversary of independence two years later.

More recently, he appeared in the Ikea Christmas TV commercial, playing the grandfather in the first all-black family to appear in a national television advertisement campaign.

Jimmy James, his close friend had this to say: “I am so sad to hear of the passing Clarence ‘Count Prince’ Miller who had been my lifelong friend since we came to the UK together as members of The Vagabonds band well over 50 years ago.

Not only was Count Prince Miller an enjoyable person to be with, but he was an entertainer extraordinaire in his own right, covering the musical stage, film and the theatre.

His craft was exceptional when we performed in the clubs in the 1960s and 70s and he later showed us the range of his talent when he ventured into television and film and later years as a popular compere on the various show. He was a giant among men.”

Count Prince Miller is survived by his son Jean-Pierre Miller.

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