He may be an old bird, but don’t consider this Calypso singer a musical lame duck, reports Irving DeJohn for the New York Daily News.
More than 50 years after his first song, Slinger Francisco, better known as The Mighty Sparrow, is still flying high.
The Jamaica, Queens, resident released a two-disc anthology of his music on May 17 and received a proclamation from the City Council for his contributions to world music.
“I got into the business because of my love of the music – I had a story to tell,” said Francisco, 75.
Francisco made a name for himself during the Calypso craze led by Harry Belafonte in the 1950s. He said he realized he arrived as an artist when Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole each visited his house in Trinidad, which he refers to as “the sparrow’s nest.”
But he finally perched in Queens because of the proximity to two major airports that makes traveling to the Caribbean a breeze, he said.
“You should see my passport – I’ve gotta change it every few years,” he joked.
City Councilman James Sanders, who presented the proclamation to the musician, said the fact that Francisco resides in Queens “speaks volumes.”He called The Mighty Sparrow one of the most prolific song writers of all time.
“We have an incredible amount of pride that the Sparrow can settle here, build a nest here and have an impact on the world,” said Sanders (D-Laurelton).
Richard David, executive director of the Ozone Park-based Indo-Caribbean Alliance, said Francisco helped make Calypso music mainstream.
“People would not dispute that he’s still the legend of Calypso music. He’s beloved,” he said.
But the current landscape of Caribbean music is a rude crash landing for The Mighty Sparrow.
Current artists don’t bother with clever, biting lyrics or complex melodies, he said, instead choosing to focus on “pushing buttons.”
“You shouldn’t be afraid to say something political. You’ve gotta hit hard, you’ve gotta come out with something that means a little more to the society,” he said.
While The Mighty Sparrow may not be able to do all the gyrations and movements that spawned his quirky stage name, he can still croon with his silky, smooth voice that made him a musical counterpart of Bob Marley.
“I know there’s a time for retirement and I only hope I am able to fight it off. I’m still moving. I’m not ready to put a stop on my career,” he said.