Age is More Than a Number
Undisputable, the Mighty Sparrow and Bob Marley are the two greatest performers of music the region has ever produced. Sparrow, the man who was born in 1935 in Grand Roy , Grenada and christened Slinger Francisco has won the TNT crown seven times after taking up residence there as a youth.
His music pulsated the airways from the Mid-Fifties when he won his first title, with Yankees Back popularly referred to as 'Jean and Dinah'. The hits continued as he dominated not only the home of calypso, Trinidad, but he was also dubbed king of the world of calypso, a fact that no one doubted. He won the King of the World title and even competed successfully, one-on-one, with my second best calypsonian of all time, Antigua's King Short Shirt.
Here are some of Sparrow's greatest hits: Education; Dan is the Man In The Van; We Like It So; Good Citizens; I Am Not You Soca Man; Drunk and Disorderly; Doe Back Back; In This Day And Age; Capitalism Gone Mad; I Am A Slave; Lizard Run Up She Foot; Content; Lying Excuses; Play One For Melo; Wedding Plans; Ten To One Is Murder; Sparrow Dead; Congo Man- Never Eat a White Meat Yet! When one speaks about wit, satire, masking or sexually suggestive lyrics-he is a true genius of the art.
Sparrow even ventured into Christmas songs, ballads and even a couple gospel releases. It is almost impossible to identify a topic that this master did not address in 60 years in the calypso business within his 50 or so accredited albums ...incredible!
One of his popular renditions as he mellowed from 'De Birdie,' was "Age is Just a Number"; that held to be true for only a brief moment as he still performed to sell-out crowds all over the globe even as far as Buckingham Palace with his commentary on "Phillip My Dear" aka "A Man In Me Bedroom" for Her Royal Highness, the Queen of England, where quite ironically, an encore was asked of him.
He was bestowed an Honorary Doctorate by the UWI and his music and lyrical content were used in classrooms, at workshops, as anthems and themes by scores of organizations the world over. It really seems then that even as a senior citizen, age then was 'just a number.'
But alas, the fans have heard of bouts of illness, blood disorders, hospitalization and various rumours about Sparrow's health for over 10 years now. The twilight years now approach for the-king-of-them-all who dominated greats like Lord Kitchener, Chalkdust, Duke, Lord Melody, Roaring Lion, Soca King, the late Arrow of Montserrat and Short Shirt. Sparrow now seems to be at the end of the road, as must happen to all men despite their earthly greatness.
One recalls the great contests between Sparrow and Shadow who was beaten to second place by a controversial one point when the "Bass Man From Hell" and "I Come Out To Play" signalled a string of hits from the latter.
Even as his son request privacy and that Sparrow seems to be recovering slowly from a coma, we wish the 'Birdie' well, but we all know that age and time have taken their toll; even as it has to for all mortals.
What is even more amazing, even bordering on disturbing, is the fact that it would seem that Sparrow was never really here- indeed man is only a pilgrim on earth. I could not believe that for a man who contributed so much to Caribbean music and life generally that not much was done to recognise his contribution even as he lay in a coma; maybe they are awaiting his death! Apart from Ted Daley and a couple news releases, the DJ's and radio stations remained mute. This just emphasises the point that man is only with you when you can satisfy their entertainment needs.
Sparrow laid many treasures and accolades for himself on this earth, a place where thieves and moths corrupt. Still, my prayer is whenever he is called home that, he, as well as all of us who thrive on the world and embrace fame, would also have enough treasures set aside to meet our Maker on the other side. Age is not just a number, but a formula that reminds us of our own frailty and mortality.