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Memories of Birdie
I’m hoping that by the time you get to read this, Dr Slinger Francisco is still with us. At the time of writing (as that inestimably pompous phrase goes) he’s out cold in a coma in the Big Apple—but he’s not down, or rather up, as yet. So in whatever interim Papa God allots the Mighty Sparrow let’s remember and cherish an icon who’s been entertaining, educating, enthralling, provoking, scandalising and serenading us and the world beyond for over 50 years.
Thanks to Guyana-born Gordon Rohlehr, another adopted Trini (because the baby Sparrow was born appropriately in the Grenadian village of Grand Roy-Big King), there is ample documentation and analysis of Dr Bird’s prolific output, which provides us with an invaluable continuous social commentary from pre to post independence. Shamefully as in the cases of Pretender, Roaring Lion, Kitch and Ras Shorty I, there is no biography.
Here I have to shamefacedly admit to being one of the delinquents who could and should have had a hand in at least one of these as yet ghost bios. Roaring Lion invited me back in 1993 to write his and although I managed some liner notes to the Ice Records remake of his classics and we enjoyed many extensive “coffee” sessions at the now-disappeared Lily Orchid bar across the road from the Guardian, the bio remained in the realm of ol’ talk.