Today is the King of Calypso Mighty Sparrow’s 74th birthday. The Mighty Sparrow (also known, affectionately, as the Birdie) was born in Grenada on July 9, 1935, but moved to Trinidad when he was one year old. He earned major recognition in the Caribbean in 1956, when he won Trinidad’s Carnival Road March and Calypso Monarch with his most famous song, “Jean and Dinah.” With Aldwyn “Lord Kitchener” Roberts and Harry Belafonte, paving the way, his calypso style gained popularity in Europe and the United States. Through the decades, he continued changing with the music—as soca became more popular in the 70s and 80s—and never lost his acclaim. His lyrics still broach social and political issues, always reflecting the pulse of the contemporary Caribbean.
In “Happy Birthday to the Calypso King,” as he muses about how Dr. Slinger Francisco earned his name (“Does anyone call him “Slinger” or “Francisco” except his bankers, doctors, or attorneys? And why the “Mighty?” Well I know for sure about the “Mighty.”) Allan Fenty highlights the brilliance, uniqueness, and talent that make this Caribbean icon “tower above many as one who has both entertained us and influenced Guyanese – Caribbean popular – entertainment culture over the past five decades.” Fenty writes, “Like Marley later was to Jamaican reggae, Sparrow personified calypso, then gave it to the world. Whether in its purest form or its hybrid, soca-version incarnation.”
Allan also speaks of the formative years “the Birdie” and the people who supported the Mighty Sparrow in Guyana, such as Cyril Shaw, James Smartt, Eddie Hooper, Eddy Grant, and Phillip Nichols, as well as his principal songwriter, Trinidadian Winsford “Joker” Devine. It is also interesting to know that details on all the people who have surrounded, influenced, and championed the singer will soon be available in a biographical text. The Mighty Sparrow’s daughter, Karen Francisco, is presently at work, interviewing people in Guyana and throughout the Caribbean for this definitive biography.
For article by Allan Fenty, see http://www.stabroeknews.com/2009/features/07/09/happy-birthday-to-the-calypso-king/
Also see http://www.mightysparrow.com/