The Mighty Duke was a good calypsonian, but not a great one. While it is true that he won the Calypso crown four times consecutively, it must be recognised that the period of the late 1960s was weak and unimpressive. Apart from Kitchener, everyone struggled to impress. Sparrow was good in 1969 but was otherwise a shadow of his former self and was ridiculed in song by the Merrymen of Barbados. Musical accompaniment was generally scrappy and Arthur de Coteau appeared to be the only credible option. Wit and originality were generally lacking and the public was anxious for Calypso to get off the canvas. This breath of fresh air did not come until 1974 (although Sparrow had a good year in 1972) with the ascendancy of the Mighty Shadow.
The 1970s and 1980s saw a general improvement in lyrics, music, styles, range and accompaniment. Chalkdust, Shadow, Valentino, Rose, Lord Shorty, Stalin, Scrunter, Blueboy, David Rudder, Maestro contributed to the new energy.
And this is what made the Lord Kitchener great; the old man adapted and dominated. Duke on the other hand was a cast-filler; whether he was there or not didn’t affect the Box-office. Pelham Goddard, Ed Watson, Frankie McIntosh and Leston Paul re-vitalised the musical accompaniment, and the fans were happy once more. It is rumoured that he was more successful as a composer, but I would not (and cannot) make anything of this until the air is cleared publicly. I don’t engage in gossip.
Finally, I wish to implore the good Prof Rohlehr (who I must be careful not to antagonise since he always has mighty fine wine) to use the word “great” sparingly. Very sparingly.
ERROL MICHAEL “Philo” PHILLIPS