Dennis Williams Franklyn , aka Merchant, was orphaned at eleven and grew up in an orphanage in Belmont, Trinidad.
As an adult he led a troubled life , spending time in prison , becoming addicted to drugs , and dying of Hiv/Aids in 1999.
However he was one of our most gifted calypso composers, and created hits for many singers , including stars of the art-form like Bally , Baron , De Fosto , Crazy , Eddie Grant and many others.
He also wrote for bands like Atlantik and the internationally acclaimed Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.
Merchant was also a fine performer and started his singing career in 1975 , but his breakout hits came in 1977 with “Umbayo” , and “Let No man judge”
Let No Man Judge !
In 1978 , Merchant made the first of two appearances at the Calypso Monarch Finals with his hit “Norman, is that you?” and “Think About the Children”.
“Norman” was influenced by a popular movie comedy about homosexuality, and it is said that Merchant never sang it after it was released, when members of the public suggested that he was gay.
“Think About the Children” was arranged by Ed Watson.
When we old timers talk of the greatness of calypso music from the latter third or so of the last century , we’re sometimes accused of being nostalgic.
However, that isn’t the case, and Merchant’s body of work are fine examples.
Another popular hit from Merchant was the party oriented “Rock It”, another fine arrangement by the great Leston Paul.
Much of the popular music of that bygone era were well crafted lyrically and musically , with outstanding accompaniment, arranged by the best arrangers of the day , or indeed of any era.
This music wasn’t disposable like fast food , meant to be a quick party hit and soon forgotten. This music had “legs” , and as you listen it’s obvious that these tunes have stood the test of time. “Pan in Danger” by Merchant for example.
Apart from the intelligent and highly relevant lyrics , this is an outstanding piece of calypso music , and a great example of the quality of music available for panorama arrangers to work with in those days.
Here from 1985 is Merchant , and “Pan in Danger”, arranged by another great Mr. Leston Paul.
Here is Merchant performing his classic live at Carnival Dimanche Gras in 1985.
And of course , the classic Clive Bradley arrangement as performed by Tokyo Steel Orchestra at Panorama Finals 1985.
Dennis Williams Franklyn, aka Merchant died in 1999, five years after being diagnosed with HIV/Aids, another talented artist who left us way too soon.
The Merchant had a tumultuous life. He was addicted to drugs and sexually promiscuous , which contributed to his illness and early death.
He was also one of the most brilliant , prolific calypso composers of all time, responsible for many classic calypso compositions for himself and many others.
His compositions have withstood the test of time, and his impact on the calypso art-form should not be underestimated, nor forgotten.
May He Rest in Peace.