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When I heard of Lord Blakie’s passing I was listening to one of his calypso hits of yesteryear “Sparrow Loss.” In that tune Blakie took offense at the manner in which Sparrow responded to his loss of the calypso monarch to calypsonian Bomber and the response from the judges. It was Sparrow’s second loss. The first loss was to calypsonian Dougla.  Before those losses Sparrow never lost a competition. So, Sparrow was upset. Some even reported that he threatened Bomber. So, Blakie used his calypso “Sparrow Loss” to inform the ‘respectable’ authorities that their favorable treatment of Sparrow would lead to their downfall.  He felt that if it was he (Blakie) who had expressed the unseemly behavior that Sparrow expressed the ‘respectable’ authorities “…. would have put have put an X next to my name and no matter how good I sang I would not win the competition.” Blakie was one of the few calypsonians who was not intimidated by Sparrow.  As a matter of fact his disagreements with Sparrow led to his opening his own calypso Tent called Victory.  At that time the Brigade had all the calypso stars singing in their Tent. But, Blakie was able to draw a few of the young calypsonians to his Tent and did a pretty good job the first year. But, its tenure was short due to mismanagement and other infighting. He was the first calypsonian to break from Sparrow’s Tent, the Original Young Brigade.


From Blakie’s introduction to calypso he established his “Warlord” credentials. His first road march tune “Steelband Clash” recorded the steelband clash between the Invaders and Tokyo steelbands.  Blakie was the first calypsonian, to my knowledge, that identified with a steelband. The second was Sparrow who was a mas playing member of the 1960s Trinidad Al Stars Steel Orchestra.  Blakie was a mas playing member (some said that he was also a member of their gang) of the then San Juan All Stars Steel Orchestra.  At the time of their existence, San Juan All Stars was known as a badjohn band.  They became infamous for the Carnival riot with the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra.


Blakie was one of the great calypsonians, who, were it not for the presence of Sparrow (Calypso King of the World), would have gone further in the calypso world.  What I mean is that Sparrow was such a dynamic presence in the calypso world that all other calypsonians could not outdo him in the competitions.  I met Blakie some years ago in Brooklyn at a Calypso competition on Eastern Parkway.  He was one of the judges.  I found him to be gentle and very respectful.  He commented on the tunes by the young calypsonians and pointed out their mistakes.  I found his judgments to be on target.  I never heard a Blakie’s calypso that was not well received by the public.  As we all know the Trinidad public is a harsh critic of calypsonians.  To pass muster you have to be real good. Blakie always passed muster. He never won the calypso monarch but he was always a force in the competitions. Many felt that his warlord image did not help with the judges who did not approve of his badjohn image.  They believed that he could not represent calypso as an ambassador abroad. But, Blakie won two road marches “Steelband Clash” and “Maria”.  As a matter of fact he won the first official road march with “Maria” in 1962.  Previously, road marches did not have any official status. Blakie was also known for his laugh during a calypso.  You could recognize his calypsos by that laugh.  He was also an expert in imitating the Chinese language in calypso.  Among my favorite is “Chinese Restaurant.”  His political calypso on the then Geddes Granger (now Makandal Daaga), leader of NJAC is memorable. 


The passing of Blakie should awaken the TUCO, (the representative body for calypso). Over the last few years at this time we lose calypsonians, panists and Mas leaders, the trinity of Carnival.  We mourn them for a few weeks and then they are forgotten. We need a Calypsonian Hall of Fame to record the contributions of these legends. Some say that we don’t like our heroes and heroines.  One calypsonian, Mudada, said that “we put you up today and mash you down tomorrow. We need to collect our national music and place them in an archive so that future generations will be able to know their contributions.  I remember when the National Library opened I contacted them to know if they had the Independence record album that recorded all the calypsonians who participated in the 1962 Independence competition finals. I was told that they did not know one existed.  But, I know it existed because I saw it as a child in Ibrahim’s record Store that used to be on Park Street. It had the national colors of Red, White and Black on the jacket.  I call on TUCO to collect Blakie’s calypso legacy and place them on CDs for the public to hear.  I have prepared my won collection from my archive. We must remember Roy Cape’s remark that when he called a radio station to inform them that Frankie Francis had died he was asked who was Frankie Francis.  This year we lost three carnival people over the last week. Frankie Francis (Musician), Mifan (Steelband’s man) and Blakie (Calypsonian).  

We celebrate you warlord.          

See you at the rendezvous of victory,


by Khalick J. Hewitt, President & Founder

International Steelpan & Calypso Society

January 10, 2005


When Steel Talks  Correspondent

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