Legendary bandleader Byron Lee lost his battle with cancer yesterday. The soca icon died at the University Hospital of the West Indies at the age of 73.

Lee, fondly referred to as "The Dragon", had been fighting transitional cell cancer and was being treated in Miami, Florida, USA. He was returned to Jamaica by air ambulance on October 25, where he was treated at the Tony Thwaites Wing.

The Dragon's daughter, Juliane Lee Samuels, told The Gleaner, "The family of The Honourable Byron Lee Sr, OJ, regretfully confirm that he passed away peacefully today (yesterday). He fought a very brave battle with cancer and was in hospital surrounded by his family and close friends. He will be remembered not only as an excellent musician, but as a very kind, generous, humble and talented man, who was always working to use music to unite persons of all ages, races and people from all walks of life."

Lee is survived by his wife, Sheila, sons, Byron Jr, Edward John, daughters, Deanna, Judith, Julianne and Danielle, as well as grandchildren, Amelia, Alexander, Jessica, Victoria, Amanda, Jaden and Dylan.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding responded to the tragedy in a statement yesterday, saying, "Jamaica, and indeed the world, has lost another great music pioneer with the passing this morning of Byron Lee, one of the greatest bandleaders ever to grace the entertainment stages of the world."

The Prime Minister noted that Lee had excelled not only as a musician, with his band Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, but was known to be one of the best promoters, label and studio owners, and could be credited for the explosion in popularity of Jamaica's music as far back as the 1960s.

Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, with responsibility for entertainment, Olivia "Babsy" Grange, said she was deeply saddened by the passing of Lee, adding that Jamaica has lost another of its "great sons of our music and culture".

The People's National Party also expressed their sincere condolences and sympathies to the family of Lee.

Lee was known for hits such as "Tiny Winey", and was recently conferred with the Order of Jamaica during a special ceremony at the hospital. The Order of Jamaica is the nation's fourth-highest honour. Lee was awarded the Order of Distinction in 1982, which was upgraded to Commander class in 2007.

Lee's career spans more than 50 years, and he is credited with being one of the leading musicians to bring Jamaican music to the world. According to yahoomusic. com, when Bob Marley was a struggling, young musician and a member of the little-known Wailers, Lee was perhaps the most well-known Jamaican bandleader in the world.

Photo: Byron Lee backstage with TJJ's Panidad at the 2008 Tampa Bay Caribbean Carnival Fete at the West Tampa Convention Center. Saturday 14th June 2008.