‘HAPPIEST MAN ALIVE’
By JULIEN NEAVES Tuesday, February 11 2014
DESPITE being in a coma in New York a few months ago, Calypso King of the world and national icon Slinger Francisco, better known as The Mighty Sparrow, returned to this country yesterday walking on his own, singing impromptu calypsoes and looking forward to performing for the Carnival season.
Sparrow arrived in Trinidad yesterday on a flight from New York and was greeted at the VIP Lounge of the Piarco International Airport by his wife Margaret, daughter Karen, nine-month-old grandson Kona and members of the media.
He offered reporters “greetings and salutations”, embraced his grandson and playfully made a growling animal sound for him. Later for the pictures he encouraged Kona to “wave to the camera”.
Sparrow was hospitalised in New York last September after suffering a stroke and then going into a coma. With the help of prayers of family, fans and the people of Trinidad and Tobago, the 78-year-old “Birdie” was out of the coma a few weeks later and was admitted to a rehabilitation institution.
Sparrow was in a jovial mood yesterday, saying he had a wonderful flight and a “good tasting” meal, though he quipped that he was expecting more than one. He was also told he would not be served alcohol.
“What you doing man? No alcohol. I come down for Carnival,” he said.
Always the entertainer, on the Caribbean Airlines plane he sang for his fellow passengers his 1995 composition “This is Madness” and also sang a couple verses for the media:
Once upon a time this country was sweet
Yes, people coulda lime freely on the street
Whether was North or South
You coulda always walk without the fear of molestation
You had no money but used to live right (woi)
The people used to be just poor but polite
It doesn’t matter what, we were always taught
You have to honour your mother and father
And love thy neighbour
But now honour and respect gone through the door
Yes, we living in a state of undeclared war
I say youths acting like they insane
Parents trying to abstain
Shouting out don’t call meh name
I eh taking no kinda blame
But something happen along the way
Now honesty, we can no longer afford
This is madness
He noted that if the reporters knew the words of the song they could have sang along with him. He then said it felt “very nice” to be home because there was no snow.
“I eh able with the kind of snow it have up there. There are certain parts of New York, upstate, six, eight, ten inches (of snow). You kidding me?” he said. Questioned how he was feeling he said “good, good, good, hot, hot, hot” and then broke into the chorus of (the late Alphonsus Cassel) Arrow’s “Hot Hot Hot”.
“Like Arrow, and the Sparrow, feeling hot hot,” he sang.
Questioned how he felt about the music this Carnival, he noted he heard “just a few” and commented on Machel Montano’s “Happiest Man Alive”.
“But he making a big mistake. He eh happier than me,” he said.
He then spoke about recovering from the coma.
“You know what it is? I went in a coma and come back. Eh? Them eh understand what coma mean you know. Coma mean death. From the doors, cause somebody was opening the wrong door, so I want to come back and go to the right door,” he said laughing.
He noted his return home was firstly because he missed his family. He also had to ensure that they were in tune with his condition.
“At one point they were all up there to see me in the hospital. So I now come down to see them. I’m out of the hospital...I could walk and I could dance little bit (laugh). Not no big time dance yet,” he said.
He was also asked about fake reports that he was dead during his hospitalisation. He then broke into his composition “Sparrow Dead”:
I hear he have cancer
I hear he have yellow fever
Something in he bladder
With a double dose of leukemia
He then commented, “I don’t know why they want to kill me...(but) when I used to behave bad and thing they didn’t want to kill me. Now they want to kill me. So, there’s no problem. I eh go give them no chance to kill me (laughs).”
He noted he also had to perform and “see meh Carnival and ting” as part of his itinerary. He is scheduled to perform at De Nu Pub (Mas Camp) tomorrow, alongside Dr Hollis Liverpool (Mighty Chalkdust) and Leroy Calliste (Black Stalin).
He said currently he was not thinking of doing any new recordings but would be focusing on performances to raise funds to help pay off for medical expenses incurred.
He will return to New York after Carnival for the doctors to continue caring for him.
“They eh want me stay out too long,” he added.
He explained his medication which he came to this country with would expire in about four or five weeks. He noted he took his medicine at 8 am and he would have to get more by nightfall.
He also explained his medicine kit has a built-in alarm to remind him when to take it.
Questioned if he would be part of Dimanche Gras on Carnival Sunday, Sparrow said he will have to check with the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation officials about participating.
“I am ready for whatever happens. Whatever calls,” he added.
Creative arts lecturer/director Rawle Gibbons of Canboulay Productions was on hand to welcome Sparrow.
“We welcome the king, the bird, Dr Sparrow home. You know, Birdie, prime ministers come and go, presidents come and go. But there is only one king — the monarch himself, Sparrow,” he said.
He continued, “And Sparrow if you know the outpouring of love that has come out of this situation, out of this occasion for your return. Every appeal that we have made people have responded to.”
Gibbons noted his company decided to do a series of five lecture performances in appreciation of Sparrow.
“When this crisis happened it was clear that we just didn’t know enough as a public, really, about the work (of Sparrow). We may know some of the calypsoes, we may know the fact that he won the King (Calypso Monarch)...on eight occasions but the work itself and what it means we haven’t fully explored,” he said. (Sparrow also won the Road March eight times.)
He noted most of the funds will be going to Sparrow’s medical expenses and he hopes to present him with a cheque for $100,000.
The performances begin tomorrow evening at Central Bank Auditorium with Professor Gordon Rohlehr speaking about the life of Sparrow.
This will be followed by lectures at the Learning Resource Centre in Couva with writer Earl Lovelace and calypsonian Relator (Willard Harris) on calypsoes about street violence, then Tobago with Chalkdust and then David Rudder on February 19 at Naparima Bowl and then the series ends with Professor Patricia Mohammed and Singing Sandra (des Vignes Millington) at Daaga Hall, UWI talking about Sparrow’s women.
He noted they have received sponsorship for three lectures so far and expressed hope that the Arts and Multiculturalism Ministry will also come on board. The cost for the lectures is $100 per person and tickets are available at the venues.
Gibbons noted Sparrow opened up calypso to the world as a business by his entrepreneurial skills and brought it closer to the people by the intimacy he established with women through his music. He pointed out that he is known throughout the world as a towering artiste.