'The Mighty Sparrow - Doctor Bird' classic soca anthology soars and scores

MISANI Special to the AmNews | 7/7/2011, 11:02 a.m.
The new soca anthology, "The Mighty Sparrow - Doctor Bird" (17 North Parade/VP Records), soars...
'The Mighty Sparrow - Doctor Bird' classic soca anthology soars and scores

The new soca anthology, "The Mighty Sparrow - Doctor Bird" (17 North Parade/VP Records), soars into the decade of 2011 with an unrivaled collection of classic soca songs by the renowned Calypso King, who singlehandedly defined an era, starting with the 1950s to the present.

This double CD and DVD anthology edition, which was released last month, is the "ultimate" compilation of calypso standards. It is a priceless collector's item containing 30 of Sparrow's greatest hits, all but one of which were written by the trailblazing Caribbean legend (affectionately dubbed "Birdie"), who was born in Gran Roi, Grenada and raised in Trinidad.

"The Mighty Sparrow - Doctor Bird" package contains an additional bonus: a DVD of rare footage of Sparrow in action on and off the stage. His distinctive singing style, electrifying performances and inimitable showmanship make this DVD worthy of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

I fondly remember eliciting Sparrow's assistance in the mid-80s when we petitioned the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to include a reggae and calypso category into the Grammy mix. Although reggae made it, the necessary figures needed for the inclusion of calypso just wasn't there at the time.

This compilation is a DJ's dream to play at the hottest clubs as well as neighborhood and family ftes for both old- and new-school Sparrow fans. Equally as important, "The Mighty Sparrow - Doctor Bird" also serves as an historical record of Caribbean music by the Calypso King of the World, whose discography includes over 70 albums.

As such, selections from his music catalogue should be included in music libraries and music departments at colleges in Trinidad & Tobago and the United States. In addition, institutions such as America's Library of Congress and the American Folklife Center in Washington, D.C., and Trinidad & Tobago's Library of Congress should also have some type of access to this valuable body of work.

The eclectic track opener on the first CD of "The Mighty Sparrow - Doctor Bird" is "Jean and Dinah," Sparrow's coming-of age anthem, recorded in 1956, that introduced his hot, edgy, up-in-your-face, calypso brand of music to the world. This catchy song, which I categorize as a calypso folk song, is based on the reality of the times after the American soldiers left Trinidad following World War II. It depicts the story of two groups within the Trinidadian community: the jamettes (fast-life women) and the saga (sporting life) guys who were rejected during the time the "Yankees" were around.

Sparrow sings: "Well the girls in town feeling bad. No more Yankees in Trinidad. They going to close down the base for good. Dem girls have to make out how they could. Brother, is now they pack up in town. In for a penny and in for a pound. Believe me its competition for so. Trouble in town when the price not go.

"Jean and Dinah. Rosetta and Clementina. Round de corner posin'. Bet you is life somethig dey sellin.' And if you catch dem broke. You can get it all for nothin'. Don't make a row. Yankee gone, Sparrow take over now."