A Tribute By Michael Derek Roberts

In African culture when someone dies there is celebration in the village and among family and friends. And in the Caribbean we often use the sport of cricket to find terminology to describe people who have played in the game of life. Recently, the legendary Trinidadian calypsonian Winston ‘Mighty Shadow’ Bailey passed away at the age of 77. I believe that he’s face the “bouncers” of life, oftentimes “hooking for four” and chalked up almost four scores before he “got out” at 77.

Shadow, who was sick for some time, suffered a stroke and his family confirmed that he died in hospital days before he was set to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies for his huge contributions to the Caribbean art from of calypso and as a composer. The regional institution of higher learning has said that it will still honor this talented and unique calypso maestro even in death.

Maybe today’s Soca bards might not remember or even know who Shadow was and the contribution he made to Caribbean calypso. And I lament the fact that through the Caribbean these talented calypsonians that have dedicated their entire life “making great music” are shoved aside, discarded and left to fend for themselves when sickness, poverty and an uncaring society considers them as “has beens” and not relevant today. Time and time again we learn of the passing of one calypso giant after another who died destitute, poor and left to degenerate surviving by the mercy of family and a few friends.

Today, as we pay tribute to “the Mighty Shadow” the indomitable “Baseman,” who gave us such classic hits as “Bassman”, “Pay the Devil”, “Poverty is Hell”, “What’s Wrong With Me”, “Feeling the Feeling” and “Yuh Lookin’ For Horn” – lets not just honor his memory and body of work but resolve to take care of these ultra-talented singers and composers in the twilight of their days.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley said Shadow had “revolutionized the calypso world with his haunting sound and unique delivery which he crafted and perfected in an impressive catalogue of work spanning several decades”. I wholeheartedly agree. Shadow was one-of-a-kind, a unique, gadfly and advent garde performer never to be copied by anyone. The man was so enigmatic that the Shadow Brand has never been replicated to date.

“He was an original in all his various musical creations. His music told us stories about ourselves through poignant social commentary that was often fused with wry humor. Over the years his contribution to the development of our local music earned him regional and international acclaim,” the Trinidad & Tobago leader added.

Shadow was awarded the prestigious Hummingbird Silver Medal in 2003 for his contribution to music of Trinidad and Tobago. He also won the coveted Road March title twice, as well as the Calypso Monarch. The Trinidad and Tobago Promoters Association also remembered Shadow as “a true patriot and friend”.

“And we are saddened by this loss to our culturescape. As we know his relatives and friends will be grappling with this loss in the coming days, the TTPA extends its arms to offer any assistance that they may need. Once again we are saddened by this loss and we give the assurance that we will do all we can to celebrate his powerful contribution to us all and keep his legacy alive. Many of us will stand in our homes and sit in our cars today and dance to the music he made, we want to remember him with joy. Thank you Shadow,” the association said in a statement.

Meanwhile the University of the West Indies (UWI) has joined the national and regional community in mourning Shadow’s passing, calling him “one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most prolific singers/songwriters.” Shadow was scheduled to be conferred the degree of Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa for his contributions as a musical composer at the Graduation Ceremony at The UWI St. Augustine. Earlier this year, Shadow was nominated graciously accepted the University’s offer for the conferral of the degree.

Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said, in his reflections on the great CARICOM calypsonian, “There is no doubt that ‘The Shadow’ was superbly gifted with an ability to extract from the base of society extraordinary creativity and intellectual energy which he returned to source with; an endless supply of ripping social justice lyrics and a compelling baseline that bombarded the base of the belly. The apparent ease of his effort speaks to the integrity and purity of his performance as an art-form derived from communities living the hell of poverty. No one who knows the hard issues facing these communities could claim ignorance of his public musical conversation. We celebrated The Shadow in life as he illuminated the darkness around us. Now, we shall sing him songs of gratitude.”

From all of us at CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS we extend our sincere condolences to the family of Winston “The Shadow” bailey, his family and friends, the Calypso fraternity and of the people of the Caribbean. May he rest in peace.

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