Thursday, August 20, 2015

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Calypso Biographical Sketches

Sir Lancelot Sings for The Zombie
I've always found calypso music from the 1930s and '40s to be a real treat In these songs, by artists with names like Growling Tiger, Lord Executor, King Radio, Lord Invader etc., you'll hear songs of social protest, songs about news of the day, political commentary, songs insulting other calypso singers. And ever so often there are mini-bios of world leaders and celebrities of the day.

Below are some of my favorites.

Trinidad-born Lancelot Victor Edward Pinard (1902 –  2001) recorded under the name of Sir Lancelot. Roky Erikson fans should note that Sir Lancelot, who appeared in several American movies. including a 1943 classic called I Walked With a Zombie, in which he portrayed a calypso singer. His politics were left-leaning. Lancelot was a fan of Henry Wallace. But he also apparently as a fan of J. Edgar Hoover, who probably had the songer's phone tapped. Here's "G-Man Hoover."

You might have heard this song performed by Ry Cooder. Van Dyke Parks also recorded it on Discover America (which also had a cover of G-Man Hoover.) But "Roosevelt in Trinidad" was first performed by Raymond Quevedo (1892-1962) better known as Atilla the Hun. This song commemorates FDR's 1936 trip to Trinidad, "the land of the hummingbird."

Of course, not all calypso bios praise their subjects. Clifford Morris, aka The Mighty Destroyer in this 1941 hit had a few thoughts about Der Fuehrer. This is a cover, I believe from the 1990s, by a singer named Phillip Murray.

Except for the Hitler ditty, this post seems to have turned into "Songs Van Dyke Taught Us." The following, sung by "The Lion," also known as "Roaring Lion" aka Hubert Raphael Charles aka Raphael de Leon 1908-1999). Lion's most famous song is "Ugly Woman," which was turned into a hit called :If You Want to Be Happy" by Jimmy Soul in the 1960s.

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