Sparrow Side by Side with Caribbean Greats
SLINGER FRANCISCO, better known as the Mighty Sparrow, is due to celebrate his 70th birth anniversary in the month of July 2005. Arguably the greatest entertainer the Caribbean has ever produced, he must surely rank alongside the likes of Toussaint L’Ouverture, CLR James, Dr, Eric Williams, Rudranath Capildeo, Sir Vidia Naipaul, Derek Walcott, Bob Marley, Sir Garfield Sobers, and Brian Lara – just to name a few of the men of genius that this region has produced. Exalted company indeed.
Since 1956 when “Jean and Dinah” propelled him to fame, he has not looked back. What amazes me most about this man is that he can sing any type of song – whether opera, pop, jazz, gospel, ballads, you name it – and also in different languages.
His command of the stage rates second to none and, while “Father Time” has severely restricted his ability to gyrate – in other words, Sparrow can’t wine anymore – (now readers, I am referring to onstage), his golden voice is still strong and clear.
I saw him last year at Queen’s Hall celebrating his 69th Birthday – that number that so many lovers like – still looking remarkably fit for his age. I vividly remember him opening his show with that haunting melody “Slave”, followed by the classic “Education”, “Mae Mae”, Congo Man”, “Lying Excuses”, “Document Pan” and many others in a memorable performance, displaying the full range of his genius. I did not hear “Rose”.
Here is a man that has remained on top of his act for half a century, a man with no university degree but one who can match wits with kings and presidents, princes and paupers.
Many readers will place, Robert Nesta Marley as the region’s greatest ever entertainer. Sparrow cannot come close to Marley’s impact on the global scene. Almost 25 years after his death, his songs still have tremendous magnetic power. However, imagine both of them on stage at the peak of their careers. The Birdie would make mincemeat of the Master Rasta. His versatility would overcome Marley’s stage charisma.
God’s continued blessings to you, your wife Margaret and the rest of your family. Sparrow, thanks for the memories.