Mighty Sparrow, Trinidad

There is no question that Trinidad is the royal palace of calypso and the Mighty Sparrow its king. The career of "Sparrow," born Slinger Francisco, is the history of modern calypso. He began in 1956, which was early enough for his songs to be covered by older calypsonians, such as the great Duke of Iron. The tribute was of course returned by Sparrow.

Sparrow's musical achievements include steel pan development, use of electric guitar, and eventually promoting "soca," or soulful calypso. Free from the restrictions of pre-1956 recording restraints, generally he sang longer songs with more intense lyrics and themes. From the start, Sparrow revolutionized calypso, and only the records from his first few years can be compared to those of hi-fi era calypsonians.

Eventually Sparrow became the most decorated calypsonian in history, winning the Calypso Monarch Crown and the Road March Title many times. His popularity was never in doubt, but he did not capture either title and hold it consistently, as many people believe. He forfeited the crown several years by protesting or abstaining from the competition, and in other years he simply lost.

Sparrow developed calypso itself, contributed a staggering number of hit songs, repeatedly captured the crown, and produced many other artists. He protested conditions for calypsonians performing publicly, recording in the studio, and getting radio airplay. Calypso had been stagnating as quaint, folk music for cruise-ship tourists, but under Sparrow it returned to its hard-biting origins and became dangerous again. Political, often raunchy, and usually brilliant, Sparrow's music united West Indians from Trinidad to Brooklyn, New York.

Buying: There are so many! It is hard to go wrong with Sparrow records up until the mid-1970s. Even his latest albums have some of his best work, however.

Mighty Sparrow LPs

Calypso Carnival [Vol. 1]; Balisier
7Calypso Carnival Vol. 2; Balisier HDF-1005; 1958
7This is Sparrow; Balisier HDF-1008; 1959 (w/Sonny Denner orch. incl. Cyril Diaz)
7Sparrow in Hi-Fi; Balisier HDF-1009 (1959 calypsos & "rock & roll" songs; arr. Sonny Denner)
6King Sparrow's Calypso Carnival; Cook 920
6King Sparrow in High Fidelity; Cook 1126 (partly "Rock & Roll")
7The Mighty Sparrow Sings True Life Stories of Passion, People, Politics; Scepter International SI-9001; 1965 (compilation; Scepter/Mace S-10002)
8Trinidad Heat Wave; Scepter/Mace S-10003; 1965 (compilation)
6King of Calypso!; MGM SE-4259 (live)
Sparrow; RCA Victor LPB-9035
The Mighty Sparrow; RCA Victor LPB-1056
7The Mighty Sparrow's Greatest Hits; RCA Victor LPB-1067; 1960/1956-59
More Sparrow's Greatest Hits; RCA Victor LPB-1086
7Calypso King; RCA Victor LPB-1097
7Sparrow the Conqueror; RCA Victor LPB-2035 (w/the RCA All-Stars Recording Orchestra & the March of Dimes Quartet; Joey Lewis, Richard Lewis, Carl Lewis, Errol Ince, Frank Joseph, Roderick Borde, Bertram Inniss, Horace Gordon, Clarence Curvan, Harold de Freitas, Conrad Little, Nap Hepburn, Conrad Prescott, Alan Haynes, Marjorie Johnson..)
7Sparrow Come Back; RCA Victor LPS-3006; 1963
7Calypso Sparrow; RCA Victor LPS-3010; 1964
9Greatest Calypsoes by the Mighty Sparrow; RCA Victor LPS-3017 (compilation)
6The Slave; National (NRC) NLP-4188; 1963
The Outcast; National NLP-4199
8Christmas with Sparrow; National NLP-4410 (Christmas classics--not calypso, in two deluxe editions --different jacket art-- both extremely rare)
6Tattoo Woman; National 100; 1965 (Hilary/RA-3002)
8Congo Man; National NLP-5050; 1965
7Sparrow at the Hilton; National RA/NRC-8070; 1967
5The Calypso Genius; National (NRC) NLP-8420 (Genius; Hilary SP-3001)
5Spicy Sparrow; RA-1005
6Sparrow Calypso Carnival; RA-1010; 1968
6More Sparrow More!!; RA-2020
6Sparrow Power; Hilary/RA-2021/3030
6Calypso Time; RA-2121 (w/the Troubadours; Izzy Sanabria jacket)
5Calypso A La King; RA-2122
6Live Vol. 2; Hilary/RA-2127 (w/the Troubadours; also as "At his Best"--same number)
7Hotter Than Ever; RA-3112
6Sparrow Again (Knock Dem Down); RA-4020
7Calypso Maestro; RA-5050
7The Best of the Mighty Sparrow--Live at the Blue Coronet in Brooklyn; Straker PLS-7772 (live; Barbados)
Sparrow [Meets the] Dragon (Byron Lee)
8Solid Gold--Sparrow's Greatest Hits; Steady S-134
5Sparrow Spectacular; Bestway W-034-S1; 1973
4Sparrow-Dragon Again; Dynamic Sounds SLP-002; 1975 (w/Byron Lee)
6Boogie Beat '77; Salsoul SZS-5510; 1977
7N.Y.C. Blackout; Charlie's Records CR-139; 1977
525th Anniversary; Charlie's Records JAF-001; 1980 (2-LP)
7Sanford; Charlie's Records JAF-1004; 1981/1980
4One Love One Heart; B's Records BSR-SP--69; 1987
4Jump for Jesse; New Dove ND-122801; 1987
7Party Classics 2; Charlie's SCR-3247; 1988
6Party Classics 3; Charlie's SCR-3520; 1990 (soca)
6Renaissance; BLS BLS-1021; 1996 (2-LP)

Partly Mighty Sparrow LPs

8Mighty Sparrow/Ken Lazarus: Solid Gold--Sparrow & Ken Lazarus' Greatest Hits; Steady S-136 (compilation; 1/2 of S-134)
8Sparrow's Troubadors: Bang Bang Lulu in New York; RA-2024 (mostly instrumental, funky)
7Sparrow's Troubadors: Jump-Up Time with Sparrow's Troubadors; RA-2126 (instrumental; covers Willie Bobo's "Juicy")
7Sparrow's Troubadors: Hot & Sweet; RA-2140 (instrumental)
7Sparrow's Calypso Troubadors: Peace Pipe; RA-4301 (mostly instrumental)
7Mighty Sparrow/Sparrow's Troubadors & Chorus: Hot & Sweet; Warner Bros. BS-2771; 1974 (vocal; remakes earlier hits but not RA-2140)
6Various: Caribbean Carnival; Mace M-10016 (w/Nelson, Mighty Duke, Mighty Beaver, Bert Inniss/Starlift)

Mighty Sparrow 45s

7Obeah Wedding/B.G. Plantain; National NSP-081
7Bang Bang Lulu/Black & White Love; Hilary/RA 213 (RA 410)

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