Newspaper: Express
Date: July 9, 2003
Page#: Page 11
News Editor: Keith Smith



Bridie turns "biblical scholar"

EXACTLY two years away, today, from his 70th birthday, the Mighty Sparrow, yesterday, as looking forward to yet another milestone in a life that has, more than most, been marked by them:
“The Governor of Nigeria’s governor of Nigeria's Cross River State, His Excellency, Mr. Donald Duke, has promised me the biggest bash in that country," he told me from New York which means that, quite unexpectedly, I am due for a first visit to the ancestral homeland I, having been at Sparrow's 50th birthday bash (next morning men were discovered "passed out" under tables in the expansive "Hideaway" yard), am not about the Nigerian 70th leg.
Not that Sparrow, whatever his assertion about age being just a number, retains the capacity of those early days, the "Birdie" (and who was the first man to call him that, I wonder. I mean the derivation is obvious (sparrow = bird, dummy) but still telling me:

"I'll be celebrating in nice, orderly fashion unlike the "Drunk and Disorderly" song I had some years ago (1972, actually) because my children and grand-children will put a stop to that since they always monitoring me and ordering:
'Right, that's enough now!'
"This time a man only drink two beer, you know."
Well, after one time is two time, in truth, although I remember Sparrow telling me once that if he knew then what he knows now he would never have released a song like "Drunk and Disorderly," the inebriated family shamer even less in favour now than he was then although these formulations, I find, have to be made somewhat guardedly what with the current island-wide popularity of Samaroo's "Rum Till I Die," alcohol, for all its medical thumbing-down, still running the wheels of social discourse here in greater or lesser degree depending solely on actual or fancied capacity, I suppose.
Still, times do change and I can't see how Sparrow would have been able to sing a song like "Village Ram" today now that promiscuity can naturally be punished by death which is not to say, of course, that there are not as many sexual allusions in calypso as ever but is one thing to make out that you "jam she" and quite another to take on the whole village, hopping from bed to bed aiding the virus in its sick-spreading orgy, even if they happen to have invented drugs that postpone, like magic, the agony for years and years, HIV victims now living long lives and dying from something completely unrelated like lung cancer or something, “Du Maurier” hastening people to do their doom, the lavway being that, well, something hah to take yuh.
So there I was, yesterday, saluting Sparrow for not only having survived but thrived, his children that I know having taken his “Education” classic to heart and he having gone all out to finance their education closing up in the kaisonian heart a chink he alone (as is the way with these things) saw in his able-to-do-myself armour who among you, I ask you, willing to dispute not only the man’s intelligence but his book-reading knowledge acquired outside the formal and sometimes stultifying school system.
"They making me a biblical scholar," he rang off on his way to run off to the studio where he was working on the finishing touches on his as yet untitled gospel album the work in progress being "Temptation and Deceit", King Sparrow singing on the power temptation Satan put before Christ in the "Garden of Olives" but here relating the biblical tale:
"... And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was ...hungered. And when the tempter came to him he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God… "
Which is where I will sign off today, except, as promised for a final Sparrow Top Ten (sorry, I can't print all) selection submitted by Owen Thompson, a Trinidadian journalist currently working in Spain. Actually Owen sent as well as his calypso list a cricket "list" request as follows:

"THE KING AND THE PRINCE
MY SPARROVIAN TOP TEN

1. Slave
2. Dan is de Man I Education 3. Jean & Dinah
4. Simpson I Sparrow Dead
5. Lion Donkey Rematch I Donkey Cyah Wine
6. We Like it So
7. Phillip My Dear
8. Old Man, Little Boy & De Donkey 9. Lying Excuses
10. Tribute to George Bailey

Why these ten and why this order? That would take a whole book to explain.

On the "the best" syndrome, some- thing that allows me to shift the debate from the King to the Prince. An Australian journalist colleague asked me recently, in the light of the phenomenal season BCL was having, to be brave enough to choose what I thought were Lara's five best hundreds. With the exception of the three on the last tour of Sri Lanka, and the last 209 in St Lucia, I have seen all of Lara's 17 other tons.
I came up with this:

(1) 153* vs. Australia -Barbados,
1999.
(2) 213 vs. Australia -Jamaica,
1999.
(3) 277 vs. Australia – Sydney,
1993.
(4) 122 vs. Australia – Port of Spain,
2003.
(5)375 vs. England, Antigua, 1994.

My Australian colleague more or less agreed with me. He holds that over the years BCL has always saved his best for the Aussies. I don’t suppose many will disagree with that.”

Which is where I will begin tomorrow – fittingly moving straight from the “King” to the “Prince” or, more specifically, the team(s) you have selected for him to lead during the Zimbabwe/South African tour later this year. This, then, will take us up to Friday when we will end what would have been a Week of Lists. Thanks for being such good sports.