“As far as concept and intelligence and warring with words, Mighty Sparrow was and probably still is the king … his shows are like prize fights and he always comes out on top, all this and a fifteen or twenty piece band just blasting away … he’s fantastic.” — Bob Dylan (Biograph box set notes)
Slinger Francisco, The Mighty Sparrow, was born on July 9, 1935 in Grand Roy, Grenada and migrated to Trinidad with his family when he was one year old.
At 20, Mighty Sparrow arose as the top Calypsonian with his record-breaking hit, “Jean and Dinah.” In 1958 Sparrow became the only calypsonian to earn a triple win, in the same year, in the Road March Competition. The calypsos included “P.A.Y.E. (Pay As You Earn),” a song that allowed the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to comprehend the significance of paying taxes, “Russian Satellite,” and “Theresa,” in which he sang in other languages.
During the course of his career, he continued to release popular and influential albums with rabble-rousing lyrics and unwavering social commentary. He eventually became a cross-genre stylist, belting rock, crooning ballads, and mastering funk, soca, Christmas favorites, spirituals, and African hybrids. No other calypsonian in history has had such broad appeal across musical categories.
In total, Might Sparrow won Trinidad’s Carnival Road March competition eight times, Calypso King/Monarch eight times, and twice earned the Calypso King of Kings designation. He has toured the world for over half a century, written over 500 songs, and recorded over 70 albums. Colin Powell called him “The Mount Olympus of Calypso.”
His awards and honors include:
1987 — Honorary Doctor of Letters (D. Litt.) from the University of the West Indies
2013 — Lifetime Achievement Award, Trinidad & Tobago Government
2015 — awarded Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
2019 — GlobalFEST Lifetime Artist Award