For as long as most of us can remember, the Mighty Sparrow has been an integral part of the social and political fabric of Trinidad and Tobago. Throughout his five and a half decades as a much-heralded entertainer, Sparrow has won the acclaim and respect of adoring fans throughout the world, but more particularly in the Caribbean and in the West Indian diasporas.
This newspaper, therefore, not only understands but also shares the ache and deep concern of many at the sight of Sparrow not being as mobile and as dynamic as we have long grown to appreciate and love him. His distressing medical state of affairs has been attributed to a mystery ailment with which the champion bard has been afflicted. It is heartening that this country's supreme entertainer is continuing to access the best possible health care, and we anxiously look forward to him quickly conquering this health setback. We know we are bordering on redundancy when we urge collective national prayers for this towering artistic hero, since many would already have been whispering their quiet entreaties for improvement to his health.
The truth is that Slinger Francisco has been such an essential aspect of our national consciousness that he is considered as Trinidadian and Tobagonian as our native cuisine, our picong and our overall way of life. He captures and exudes the essential local personality–full of flair, character and panache. Having moved to Trinidad from Grenada when he was still a babe-in-arms, Sparrow's consciousness and his skill as a performer developed in the cauldron of the post-war period during which the other icon of this country culture, the steelpan, was developed. He burst onto the artistic world with bravado, catchy lyrics and appealing melodies.
His seminal Jean and Dinah, composed and performed at the end of his teenaged years, indicates the measure of the talented and effusive calypsonian.
In an unstoppable career, he has won virtually every calypso competition available to him, has been serenaded and honoured around the globe, including being granted an honorary doctorate by the University of the West Indies and the Order of the Caribbean Community. In a storied career, he has won Trinidad Carnival's Road March competition eight times and has been named Calypso Monarch 11 times. Sparrow has also been the subject of rigorous academic and intellectual examination by scholars who have probed the depth and scope of his lyrics, his easy facility with a wide array of issues and his enduring passion for the region.
Indeed, no other Caribbean entertainer boasts the extensive repertoire of Sparrow, as evidenced to a new generation of fans when he re-issued his works in more than 40 complete compact discs.
Since his exciting entry into the calypso world, Birdie has helped Caribbean people to better unravel and appreciate their ongoing life story, their difficult colonial past and the possibilities of their collective future. He has done so with characteristic unbounded self-confidence, sometimes bordering on audacity. As the years rolled on, Sparrow mellowed into more than a calypso storyteller, but also evolved into a Caribbean sage of sorts, no doubt the rich result of decades of trotting the globe and rubbing shoulders with international luminaries.
There is no gainsaying that the Mighty Sparrow belongs to the ilk of the region's most accomplished and respected figures of literature, the arts and social sciences–joining such figures as Naipaul, Walcott, Marley and Williams. In wishing him a speedy recovery, we honour him and thank him for entertaining us through the years, in the process inspiring us to do like him and reach our fullest potential. Thanks for the music, Birdie. And get better soon.