Minister of Culture, Creative Economy and Sports John King has extended best wishes to ailing veteran calypsonian, William ‘Smokey’ Burke, who is currently warded at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
King, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of Emancipation day celebrations at the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium this morning, said he was saddened by the news and wished his former fellow entertainer a speedy recovery.
“I heard of Smokey’s illness and I want to take the opportunity to wish him all the best. He has been a leading light in the music fraternity from the 60’s and whenever you have persons of that talent and calibre facing illness or any challenges, your heart goes out to them and their family. I wish him a speedy recovery and I look forward to seeing him back on stage or contributing in any way that he can,” said King.
The nature of the singer’s illness has not been made public. His daughter Sharon Carter-Burke had however confirmed to Barbados TODAY that he was hospitalized.
“Yes, Smokey is in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. We thank the doctors and nursing staff managing his care and we thank the public for their concern and prayerful support, ” she said.
However, nine years ago Burke travelled to Canada for treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma (a form of cancer). He later reported that it was in remission and that he only had to undergo regular medical checks.
“As far as I know I’m in pretty full remission. For sure my liver is clear,” he stated at the time.
One member of the entertainment fraternity who visited Burke in the hospital yesterday and who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity, said he was distraught upon seeing Burke with an oxygen mask and ventilator and being monitored by medical personnel.
Burke, who competed 11 days ago in the semifinals of the Pic-O-De-Crop calypso competition at the Wildey Gymnasium, is due to compete in the finals on Friday at the Kensington Oval with Conversations With Bussa and Where The Money Go.
All indicators point to reserve Colin Spencer taking Burke’s place in the final.
Noting that filling in would be emotionally tough for Spencer, who is a close friend of Burke, King however expressed confidence that Spencer would handle the task like a consummate professional.
“It is difficult for Colin because no one wants to make it into the finals under those circumstances. He is a true professional and I know that he would give it more than his best. I think understanding that is friend is ill, he will dedicate this performance for Smokey,” King said.