The Beat

The Beat’s Saxa dies, aged 87

It was announced yesterday that The Beat’s venerable saxophonist Lionel “Saxa” Martin has died.

Born in Jamaica in January 1930, Saxa played with such ska luminaries as Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken and Desmond Dekker before being brought in as a session musician to play on The Beat’s début single Tears of a Clown. Saxa’s contribution to the track helped propel the record into the top ten and he was asked to join the band on a permanent basis. This he did, playing on their three albums I Just Can’t Stop It, Wha’ppen? and Special Beat Service before the band split in 1983, although by this time poor health had forced Saxa to stop touring.

Following The Beat’s demise Saxa featured on recordings by both factions, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger’s General Public as well as Andy Cox and David Steele’s Fine Young Cannibals. He also played with spin-off bands The International Beat and Special Beat, the latter also including former members of The Specials. Although both Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger now front different line-ups of The (English) Beat, Saxa retired from music and did not participate in either reunion. He died on 3 May 2017 at the age of 87.