Newspaper: Sunday Punch
Date: July 30, 2004
Page#: Page 20
News Editor: Donna Pierre


The Mighty Sparrow in a 1985 performance
at Spektakula forum in Port of Spain

This is my beloved Son

He's the quintessential calypsonian, master of any musical genre and a living legend in the Caribbean. This Slinger "The Mighty Sparrow Francisco" - who celebrates his golden anniversary as an entertainer this year. On July 9, he turned 69. Here's a brief glimpse into his history and legacy.

Had he been born two hours earlier, Slinger Francisco would have heard the sound of music.

His mother Clarissa is certain that all the songs and dancing from the party she has attended on the night of July 8 led her son to make his entrance the next day.

"I left the dance hall at four o'clock in the morning," she remembers, "and at six o'clock he was born."

He weighed twelve and a half pounds. Francisco's eyes opened for the first time in the family house at Grandroy Bay, Grenada, nine miles from the capital, St George's. Instead of music, the first sound that reach him was the wind rushing in from the sea, rustling the leaves of the nutmeg and cocoa plants that grew in the estate on which his first home stood.

Eighteen months later he was bound for Trinidad, his mother, like so many thousands of Grenadians before and after her, making the trip in search of a better life. She carried Francisco and his elder brother with her on  a windjammer, a small craft that to this day is still used to transport people between Grenada and Trinidad.

Clarissa's husband Rupert had made the trip to Trinidad some of years earlier, sending money back to his wife and children. In the end, consumed by loneliness, he decide to send for them, determined that they would all live on his earnings as a carpenter.

"My husband built the first set of government houses in Morvant," said Clarissa.

Their first home in Trinidad was at Long Circular, but in time , Rupert built a house for his family in Four Roads, Diego Martin. Clarissa remembers it as "a happy time with the bamboo singing, one knocking against the other."

Francisco, who would in his adult years win accolades as calypsonian The Mighty Sparrow, was "growing up nice, never rude to nobody," she said, adding he always sang.

"Singing in the house, singing calypso with a comb and a piece of silver paper and then with a 'lil guitar and I doing my wuk in the house and I listening to him sounding sweet."

The sound became bittersweet when Francisco told his mother he wanted to sing  for a living.

"I had just got a job for him in the Control Board, paying him $50 a month and when he told me this thing and I couldn't change his mind, I started to cry.

"That day I went to Woodford Square and I sat down on a bench - everytime I pass the square I see the bench, I still there and I remember - and I cry, I cry, I cry. Cry mih heart out.

"And as I am crying an old Indian man comes up to me and asks, "What you crying for?"

"And I tell him: 'I just get a job for my son paying him $50 a month and he tell me he going to sing calypso.'

"And he tells me: 'Well, since he not going and kill nobody, don't worry.'"

And with that, said Clarissa, "I just got up, went to the pipe, put three drops of water in mih mouth like the Baptist people and went home."

She never regretted he son's decision.

"When he sing 'Jean and Dinah' and win I cry again but with joy. Since that time he never leave me alone."

"You know he told me stop working and ever since then he has been taking care of me. I have never wanted for anything. That child too nice."

She proudly says her son has never sung a bad calypso and laughingly boasts that while he got his famous voice from Rupert, his dance moves all come from her.

"I was a young saga girl.

"The wasn't anybody who would dance like me. you know the reel and the quadrille. If I not in the dance, the dance not good."

Asked if she ever felt Francisco would become famous, Clarissa answers, "Never," and then after a long pause continued, "But you know one day he asked me: 'mammy, you know what kind of child you have here?'"