Artist Profiles: Mighty Sparrow

Mighty Sparrow

Slinger Francisco, also known as Mighty Sparrow, was born on July 9, 1935 in Grand Roy, Grenada and migrated to Trinidad with his family when he was merely one year old.

He sang in the boys’ choir of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, where he learned Gregorian Chants and other church songs. Slinger Francisco was also influenced by American street quartets, pop and jazz songs by Nat King Cole and Frankie Laine, Sarah Vaughn, Billy Eckstein, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, and the early calypso tunes of Lord Melody, Lord Kitchener, Lord Christo, Lord and the Mighty Spoiler.

At 20, Mighty Sparrow arose as the top Calypsonian with his record-breaking hit, Jean and Dinah. During the course of his career, he continued to release popular and influential albums with rabble-rousing lyrics and unwavering social commentary.

In 1958 Sparrow became the only calypsonian to have had a triple win, in the same year, in the Road March Competition. The calypsos included P.A.Y.E. (Pay As You Earn, a song that allowed the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to comprehend the significance of paying taxes), Russian Satellite (a song exposing cruelty to animals) and Theresa (a song where, for the first time in his career, he used other languages).

In 1959 he released Federation, (a song that revealed his dissatisfaction over the breaking up of the planned Caribbean Federation). In 1960 he released more effective recordings such as May May and Leave the damn Doctor. Royal Jail and Ten to one is Murder followed in 1961.

Sparrow Come Back Home and Model Nation came out in 1962. Dan is the Man in the Van was released in 1963, the Village Ram in 1964 and Congo Man in 1965.

In total, Might Sparrow won Trinidad’s Carnival Road March competition eight times, Calypso King/Monarch eight times, and twice earned the Calypso King of Kings designation. He has released over 70 albums to his credit.

In 2019, Mighty Sparrow won the globalFEST Artist Award.

Selected recordings:

Soca Anthology
The Mighty Sparrow, 25th Anniversary
Fyaah And Fury
Hot & Sweet
First Flight: Early Calypsos From The Emory Cook Collection

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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