Sheldon John, 2011 Extempo Calypso King has passed away approximately one month shy of his 39th birthday, according to Trinbago Unified Calypsonians' Association's (TUCO's) Welfare Officer Carlston Kerr on Monday. He died of kidney failure at approximately 5.30 pm on Sunday at the Eric Willliams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope. John, who lived at Mt D'Or, Champs Fleurs, and had St Vincent roots, won the National Extempo Monarch title six times from 2001 to 2003; 2005 and 2006; yet again in 2011. Many recall John as being a jovial person who became exceptionally proficient at his craft through hard-work and persistence.
In an immediate reaction to the top calypsonian's passing, Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Winston "Gypsy" Peters, himself a senior master craftsman in the particular calypso genre, remembers John as a friend and colleague.
"We had many duels together. He took the artform very seriously. We had a real good relationship. I went to hospital and visited him last Wednesday. The whole fraternity is saddened. It is a great loss for Extempo," Peters said in a telephone interview with the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. "I remember he started with Over The Hill Boys somewhere in the 1990s. He was a very brave young man and very promising exponent of the art," he said. "We are going to miss him dearly. We have lost Big 'B' and now Sheldon. We are going to keep the artform going in their names," Minister Peters promised. Sherma Orr, assistant Public Relations Officer of TUCO shared similar fond memories of John. "He was always a fun person. We worked together for Carnival in St Vincent and Trinidad. That was approximately 12 years ago. He was a magnificent performer and a great MC. He always wanted to fight everyone's cause and he would put in his five cents to help anyone," Orr said.
This just concluded Carnival season, John shared MC chores at Kaiso House calypso tent, at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, with Tommy Joseph.
Carlston Kerr, TUCO's Welfare Officer, said John was always very approachable. "He was willing to go the extra mile for Calypso. I always encouraged him and I saw him improve a lot over time. He served the art well," Kerr said. He said Extempo has become poorer with John's passing. "Sheldon acknowledged the skill of Gypsy and recognised him as the one to beat. Sheldon always stuck to the trade," Kerr remembered. "He would tell the audience to pick a topic and whatever they came up with he would extempo on. He challenged himself to extempo on global, regional and even international topics. He was very good at his craft, just like Brian Lara." John was also a co-owner of a boutique in the Sangre Grande Mall with his wife and often travelled overseas spreading the craft of Extempo. Kerr said John's funeral is scheduled for Thursday.