Popular Trinidadian singer The Mighty Duke died January 13, 2009, due to myelofibrosis (an incurable blood disease) at age 78. Between 1968 and 1971, he became the 1st to win a hattrick of, and the only person to capture 4 straight, National Calypso Monarch titles.
Born Kelvin Pope in Point Fortin (south-west Trinidad) on October 24, 1930, he took to poetry at school, worked as a teacher for a while after, then as an apprentice at the Shell Oil company; and, inspired by established bards such as the Viking, Lord Kitchener, the Spoiler and the Mighty Cypher, began performing in the early 1950s. He won the title of South (Trinidad) Calypso monarch in 1959 and 1960, and eventually earned a place on the cast of the Southern Brigade Tent(1964-67).
On the strength of songs like "What Is Calypso", "Black Is Beautiful" and "The BrotherHood Of Man", he prevailed as Calypso Monarch for an unprecedented 4 straight years, from 1968. (That drew the semi-retired Sparrow back into the annual contest…) the Duke also triumphed in the Calypso King of the World contests in St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands) in 1968 and 1969, and received a Humming Bird (Silver) Medal,- Trinidad and Tobago’s 3rd highest national civilian honor, in 1970.
Tall, slender and always elegantly dressed, the Duke scored the ‘Road March’ (the most popular tune of the carnival parade) in 1987, with "Thunder". He wrote political and social commentaries ("How Many More Must Die", on then-apartheid South Africa), about scandalous male/female affairs and disputes (‘bacchanal’), and for interpretations by steelbands ("Harps Of Gold", 1980). And he also penned one of the great calypso ballads, "Meh Lover", and humorous classics, "King Liar" (both recorded by Lord Nelson).
Regarded among the modern greats, the Duke named "Teach The Children" (about black history) as his favorite. In recent times he expressed concern about the ‘decline in composing standards’, and ‘calypso’s loss of ground’ to its danceable offshoot, ‘soca’.
Obituary by Sean Edwards, Power 102FM Trinidad
Author: World Music Central News Department
World music news from the editors at World Music Central