BANDLEADER BYRON Lee, whose career spans over 50 years, was yesterday conferred with the Order of Jamaica during a special ceremony at the Tony Thwaites Wing of the University Hospital of the West Indies.
Lee, 73, who has been fighting transitional cell cancer, was being treated in Miami, Florida. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer two years ago and returned to Jamaica by air ambulance on Saturday.
He was given the award by Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall. The Order of Jamaica is Jamaica's fourth-highest honour. Lee was awarded the Order of Distinction in 1982, which was upgraded to Commander class in 2007.
Yesterday's ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports Olivia Grange and close family and friends.
"Byron Lee and the Dragonaires was an institution that made such an impact on the lives of so many people, Golding said. "Byron's contribution must be boldly recorded when the history of Jamaican music is being written."
According to Golding, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires had taken the music to Jamaica and the rest of the world.
Noting that the band only two years ago celebrated its 50th anniversary, Golding said Byron Lee and the Dragaonaires had entertained, inspired and mesmerised three generations of Jamaicans.
Lee is best known as leader of the Dragonaires, a band he founded at St George's College in the 1950s. The band recorded many hit songs, including Jamaican Ska, Tiney Winey and Give Me Soca.