Annette Funicello, American Ska phenom, passes at 70 Image

by Biko Kennedy

A former Mouseketeer who matured into a pop star and teen idol, Annette Funicello, was known for her string of 1960s beach blanket movies. After complications of multiple sclerosis she passed away April 9.

Annette Funicello, one of the best-known members of the original 1950s "Mickey Mouse Club", was a key ambassador for Jamaican music in the U.S., introducing a generation of American teens to ska with her 1964 version of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires' 'Jamaica Ska'.

"What people don't understand is that Annette Funicello introduced America to ska music by and large," shared Norwood Fisher, bassist of the band Fishbone - U.S. alternative rock band formed in 1979 which plays a fusion of ska, punk rock, funk, hard rock and soul whom performed alongside Funicello in the film Back to the Beach - to in a 2011 interview.

"You know, Harry Belafonte brought us Caribbean music, the whole region. Annette Funicello actually covered Jamaican Ska and that is why ska music to this day is intertwined with surf culture and why Reggae music is intertwined with surf culture, because of Annette Funicello. So it makes sense in that realm because we were pioneering the new generation of ska in America, the West Coast sound or whatever, however you want to slice it. Somebody saw [that] and put it together."

In the scene where she performed the single, Funicello is in a flirty, polka-dot sundress singing and gamely attempting to skank, "Not many people can do the Cha Cha Cha/ not everybody can do the twist/ but everybody can do the Jamaica Ska/ it's a new dance you can't resist."

May her soul rest in peace.

Annette Funicello singing "Jamaica Ska" in the film Back to the Beach

Annette and Bob Hope performing Jamaica Ska

Keith and Ken with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires performing Jamaica Ska

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