Tears flow as stricken Sparrow sings

(Trinidad Express) – The audience at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain was shocked on Saturday night, as they watched the Calypso King of the World, the Mighty Sparrow, sit throughout his entire performance during NAPA Fest.

Slinger Francisco, brought on stage in a wheelchair, was placed on a chair in the centre of the stage before the stage lights went on. The sight of the once-powerful performer, now just a shadow of himself, brought tears to the eyes of many. The effect was so disturbing that some patrons left the building.

Sparrow, 75, who lives in New York, is suffering from diabetes, which continues to take a toll on his body. However, on Saturday night it was clear Sparrow’s voice is still strong.

With beautiful music coming from the Police Service brass band under the baton of Enrique Moore, Sparrow started off with “Education”. He performed well and while the audience was taken aback by his appearance, they still requested songs from his extensive repertoire. “Sal-tfish” was next and this is when the situation was driven home—fans began to talk about actually seeing Sparrow singing “Saltfish” sitting in a chair.

Sparrow then told the audience, “There are a lot of things we have to deal with in life, look at this.”

As he did so, he opened his arms to show the audience his immobile position. By then, he appeared to be getting tired, but Sparrow refused to give up, moving on to “Mae Mae”. Several patrons felt he had done enough and should have left the stage. Sparrow then called on the band to play “Jean and Dinah”.

It was, however, during this song that MC Alvin Daniell realised that the calypsonian had reached the end of his tether. The lights were dimmed and the wheelchair crew came on stage to gently push Sparrow off but not before the audience, unprompted, rose to give their king a standing ovation.

In contrast, 70-year-old Calypso Queen of the World, Calypso Rose, showed she is still going strong with a rollicking, dancing performance. She told the audience she had survived two cancer surgeries and continued to thank God for her survival. One of the songs she sang was her crown-winning “I Thank Thee’‘, in which she praised the people and places responsible for her success. One of them was Sparrow, whom she considers her mentor and with whom she has performed in many parts of the world.

Contacted yesterday, Sparrow’s wife, Margaret, said it was not that the master calypsonian could not walk, but that walking has been causing him severe pain over the last month.

She said doctors in the United States, where her husband has been based for years, have been unable to pinpoint the cause. She said she was hoping that the results of tests he had taken would throw greater light on the precise nature of the affliction this week.

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