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King Austin dies at 73

Published: 
Sunday, September 4, 2016
King Austin

Austin Lewis, 73, known in the calypso world as King Austin, died yesterday morning at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital. Austin’s son, Marvin King, said his father had been battling with Alzheimers for many years.

“I was taking care of him but then it became too difficult for me to do so, so I put him in a home. He fell ill there and was warded at hospital.”

King Austin, who sang Winsford “Joker” Devine’s Progress in 1980, was regarded as an icon in calypso. He placed second to Relator in that year’s National Calypso Monarch final. 

A modest and unassuming man, in one interview King Austin said: “I love every human being very much. It doesn’t matter where you are from. I love all the people.” 

He subsequently sang Who Guarding the Guards, a calypso which also enjoyed much critical acclaim.

King Austin actually began in the calypso arena in 1976, singing with the CDC calypso tent. He subsequently performed at other tents rubbing shoulders on the casts with bards like Mighty Sparrow, Lord Melody, Lord Nelson, Bro Superior and Chalkdust.

Highly-acclaimed songwriter Winsford “Joker” Devine said he is saddened by King Austin’s passing as he was unable to see him before he died. 

“I had been meaning to pass and check and check Austin where he used to lime on the Promenade. I met Austin through Keith Smith from the Express. I had written Progress for Sparrow but he didn’t sing it. Keith Smith introduced me to Austin and, from the time Austin heard Progress he loved it. I sent him to Semp Recording Studio where it was recorded. From the start, Progress was an instant hit, winning six encores the first night Austin sang it in the tent.

National Calypso Monarch multiple title-holder Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool said: “Blakie brought him (King Austin) to The Regal Tent and we accepted him. I remember King Austin to be a very humble, quiet and respectable human being. I remember him always smiling with his gold teeth shining. 

“King Austin really loved Laventille and always used to boast about Laventille and its people. He was committed to Laventille and would let everyone know that he was from there. Austin had a unique voice, one that will be missed in calypso.”

After the popularity of Progress and Who Guarding the Guards, other calypsoes recorded by King Austin included The World Today is a Ball of Confusion, Special Loving, The World Today, Time is Not Easy in the City, Soca Taking Over, Changes of Man, You Can’t Please The People and Keep It Coming. 

Of his father, King said: “My father was a born and bred son of Laventille. 

“His mother was one of the oldest citizens of Laventille and died at the age of 104 years, about four months ago.

“Daddy’s only friend is Rawle ‘Pele’ Thompson and he was in the process of doing a tribute to King Austin on September 17 to assist with his medical expenses. 

“We are still going ahead with the tribute and it will be held at SWWTU Hall in Port-of-Spain.”

King said funeral arrangements will be announced shortly.