ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, Wednesday August 08, 2012 – The Mighty Sparrow, widely recognised as the Calypso King of the World, was recently honoured in his birthplace Grenada.
Sparrow (Slinger Francisco) was born on July 9, 1935 in Grand Roy in Grenada’s west coast parish of St John. As a one-year-old he was taken to Trinidad where he embraced the calypso artform and became its greatest exponent.
He has won the Calypso Monarch and Road March titles of Trinidad and Tobago almost 20 times since his first victory in 1956 when he bagged both the Calypso Monarch and Road March crowns with “Jean and Dinah”.
In a career spanning nearly six decades, he has sung on a variety of topics, often collaborating with master songwriter Winsford “Joker” Devine. Their collaboration is documented in the book “The Progress of Winsford Devine”.
Sparrow’s hits have run the gamut from serious social commentary to playful comedy and include such enduring classics as Martin Luther King; 60 million Frenchmen; Education; No. 69; Royal Jail; Benwood Dick; Miss Tourist; Sa Sa Ay; Obeah Wedding; Drunk and Disorderly; Federation; Idi Amin; Congo Man; May May; Doh Back Back; Carnival Boycott; Theresa; Pay As You Earn; Dan is the Man in the Van; Village Ram; Melda; We Like It So; and Soca Pressure – to name a few.
Sparrow, aka “The Birdie”, has received numerous accolades for his contributions to Caribbean culture and entertainment. Included are awards from the Trinidad and Tobago government and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies.
The latest tribute to the master calypsonian took place in Grand Roy and included a cultural show and the unveiling of a plaque honouring Sparrow as well as a roadside wall bearing a portrait of the 77-year-old musician.
The event was attended by scores of St John residents including Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean; Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, Dr George Vincent; and former Senator Arley Gill, a past culture minister.
The governor general congratulated Sparrow for writing Grenada’s name “boldly on the world” and also commended him on his “achievements and contribution to music, particularly calypso”.
Vincent welcomed Sparrow “home” and recalled listening to the calypsonian’s use of French patois in many of his songs.
The minister disclosed that his father was a big Sparrow fan, who collected and played his music at home. He added that the songs were his introduction to learning patois and also helped him to “develop a love for literature”.
Sparrow, in brief remarks, expressed appreciation for the honour bestowed on him in his birthplace.
“This is beyond my expectations. This is stupendous,” he said.