The first big time calypsonian I became aware of in my youth was the Lord Melody.
Modern calypso music has devolved for the most part into two predominant sub genres ; soca ( including chutney) which is primarily dance music , and socio-political commentary.
In earlier times , however , there was a third sub genre and role for the calypsonian , that of the storyteller.
Maybe it is because of the prevalence of electronic media, but today’s calypsos , especially by the younger singers have little story telling , which I think is an overall loss to the art-form.
The great calypso bard Fitzroy Alexander,The Lord Melody, like many of his contemporaries of that era , was a master storyteller , and “Jonah And the Bake ” is a classic example of his talents.
Lord Melody, was born Fitzroy Alexander in San Fernando, Trinidad in 1926, and grew up in an orphanage in Belmont, Port of Spain.
During the postwar years after Lord Kitchener left for England, and before The Mighty Sparrow “arrived” on the scene in 1956, the Lord Melody was probably the most notable calypsonian around.
Melody was one of the pioneers of calypso music as the world came to know it in the 1950s when the art form gained popularity, and he was a former composer and arranger for singer Harry Belafonte.
Melody was funny, imaginative and lyrical, and one of his biggest hits of that era was “Jonah and the Bake”, a story of a Baptist preacher from Laventille and his four little children.
From the 1957 record album “Calypso Kings and Pink Gin” here is Lord Melody’s “Jonah and the bake”, recorded live at the Young Brigade Calypso tent, where he is introduced by the Mighty Sparrow.
Some of us may have forgotten , but the legendary calypsonian Lord Melody was a joy as a singer and composer , and one of the great masters of the genre.
Many of his compositions became classics of the genre , and like most singers of his day , he was a master of the double entendre , and capable of lyrics that, while suggestive weren’t openly vulgar.
This was also a popular tune with the steelbands in those days, an era when just about any good calypso would have also been a good “pan tune”
Here is one of his great hits of yesteryear that displays Melody at his best – the voice , the lyrics – he was aptly named.
This Lord Melody classic featuring the Cyril Diaz Calypso Combo was featured on the Cook album”Calypso 1962″ . Though a version of Sir Lancelot’s “Shame & Sorrow” from 1943 , Lord Melody’s version was the one copied and recorded by a number of popular artists, and which was an international hit.
American audiologist Emory Cook was able to capture the sounds of Trinidad’s Carnival 1956 for posterity. One of the classic sounds he captured was at the Young Brigade calypso tent, where he recorded a live performance of calypsonian Lord Melody introducing the song that was to become his signature tune, and make the expression “Boo Boo” a staple of the language.
Here, live from the Young Brigade Calypso tent at Carnival 1956 is the legendary calypsonian Lord melody and his classic hit, “Mama Look a BooBoo”
The classic verbal duels between the Mighty Sparrow and his friendly nemesis The Lord Melody have become calypso legend, and this ex-tempo session from the original Young Brigade Calypso Tent of 1957 is a great example of the art known to calypso fans as “picong”.
Here, the legendary calypsonians take on each other in an extemporaneous exchange of insults as they battle each other in the classic back and forth picong style.
The actual exchange is captured on the album cover of the 1957 Cook album “Calypso Kings and Pink Gin” As they used to say in the old days, “Santimanitay”(Sans humanite’) without mercy!
Who can forget his fine calypso that gave San Fernando it’s first ever panorama victory when Guinness Cavaliers won at the 1965 National finals with Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed’s arrange of Lord Melody’s “Mas”?
Those wishing to hear more from this calypso legend should check out this vintage album
And , we couldn’t end this without adding one more classic by this great kaisoman.
Here he is , introduced by his friend , The Mighty Sparrow.
Lord Melody died on September 26th, 1988 at the Port of Spain General Hospital after a yearlong battle with cancer.
Fitzroy Alexander – Lord Melody (1926 – 26 September 1988)
May he Rest in Peace