To see is to believe; to hear let the sounds out of the barrel; to see, to hear and watch a sparrow in flight is heaven.
About 7:20 p.m. on the last Friday night of May, after surveying the already packed house, Aisha from Boston approached the bar of BB King, a popular entertainment restaurant on 42 Second Street in the heart of Manhattan, New York and ordered drinks for herself and her partner.
They sipped and chatted and awaited as the minutes ticked away until 8 p.m. — the start of the evening’s show.
“What’s that you are eating,” she asked. “It looks good.”
“Chicken fingers,” I said.
She appeared somewhat anxious and then confessed that “tonight is the first time” she will see the Honourable Dr. Francisco Slinger (Mighty Sparrow) — the Calypso King of the World.
Then, at about 7:45 p.m. people began to leave their seats and surge towards the left of the stage. The small stir turned out to be a meet and greet opportunity with Mighty Sparrow.
Forty five minutes later, after the crowd was set on fire by Natasha – Sparrow’s daughter in a four-song stint, a vintage Sparrow, dressed in a white suit,, rolled back the years and evoked sweet memories as he thrilled a Caribbean-American audience of calypso fans for about 90 minutes.
It was May, so was that why his first song was May May or, was he about to make love with his patrons, lyrically and melodically, that is?
By then there were many empty seats, patrons were up close, next to the stage, as Sparrow explained to them: “When it comes to meat, Bajan salt fish sweet.” He went further and called some of the up-front patrons liars and claimed that he was the only person in the world who “never eat a white meat yet”.
Showing few signs of age, but certainly a step or two slower, Francisco Slinger, retold old stories (Congo Man) and repainted images (Claxton Bay). The King of the Calypso world didn’t stand on one foot as he used to do, but he did bend down, and sang My Way and Only A Fool, while sitting on a stool. Contrary to rumours Sparrow was not in a wheel chair.
There were no video cameras or side screens. Truthfully, there was no need, Sparrow sang in pictures.
Listen in part to the lyrics of the Lizard:
“The lizard ran up she leg and disappeared, everybody looking everywhere, where the lizard teacher Mildred, under she dress, taking a rest, the way she jumping and happy, the lizard must be tickling she.”
Listen again to an explanation when caught in the act as in Lying Excuses:
“The girl I was with behind de lamp post… ah was only trying to hold she for de police… the reason me hand was in she bosom, ah was feeling to see if she had a gun”
Eventually the calypso romance came to an end. Interestingly, the legend now way past 70, choose Drunk and Disorderly as his last song and encore. Then as he left the stage, his band, the International Troubadours belted out brass rifts and base lines and the crowd stood there savouring every moment. The king had once again brought pleasure to his royal subjects, who clearly knew the lyrics and melody of every song.
Sparrow — Nothing in the world sweeter than, Sparrow!
Stories, lies or folklore wisdom — Sparrow, he’s sweeter than sweet!
When you want kaiso, all Sparrow’s songs sweet.
So do we really have to put women on stage and wuk up ‘pon dem to get a message across? Clearly, not at all. Maybe, that is why Sparrow’s daughter says she cries whenever her dad sings My Way.