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Jamaica lost a musical giant on Saturday with the death of soundsystem maestro Winston ‘Merritone’ Blake.

The 75-year-old Blake died at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, three days after he was admitted there.

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He had suffered a mild stroke in January but was also being treated for asthma, said his friend Michael Hall.

With his older brother Trevor, Blake took over the turntables of the Merritone sound system in 1956, succeeding their father who established the ‘set’ in St Thomas in 1950.

Merritone became one of Jamaica’s most dominant club and house party sound systems for the next 50 years, playing a blend of soul, Rhythm and Blues, ska, rocksteady and reggae.

Loop reports, Blake’s younger brothers Tyrone and Monty were also part of a close-knit circle that staged the popular, annual ‘Merritone Family Reunion’.

His wife was singer Cynthia Schloss, best known for songs like Surround Me With Love and As If I Didn’t Know. She died in 1999.

“Winston was one of the most loving and caring persons you’d ever meet. And it wasn’t just music, he loved to talk about current affairs,” said musicologist Kingsley Goodison.

Blake was honoured by Goodison’s Tribute To The Greats show in 2007. He was awarded the Order of Distinction for his contribution to Jamaican music in 1995.

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