(Trinidad Guardian) Pim, pom, pi, di, pom, pom…The ‘Bass Man’ is gone!
Winston “The Mighty Shadow” Bailey passed away on Tuesday at 3.50 am at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope.
The calypso icon, poet and philosopher’s death came mere days before he received what many said was long in coming – an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine Campus for his lifelong contribution to the country’s national music and calypso in particular.
With Bailey’s death, immediate concerns were raised by some regarding whether he would still be conferred with the honorary degree promised by UWI – though no posthumously.
UWI campus principal Professor Brian Copeland was quick to put that to rest, however, when he confirmed that not only would the university still be conferring the doctorate on Bailey, but that it would also be celebrating him during Saturday’s graduation exercise at UWI.
Copeland also expressed condolences to Bailey’s family on behalf of the university and said he was saddened by Bailey’s passing before he could “collect his honorary doctorate scroll himself.”
Bailey, 77, who was diabetic, had been ailing for some time and remained hospitalised after falling extremely ill on Saturday.
When contacted, however, Bailey’s family told Guardian Media the cause of his death had not yet been confirmed and could only be revealed after an autopsy was performed. However, they dismissed as false reports that he experienced a stroke on Saturday and that this may have been the probable cause of death.
“The family is in discussion right now regarding funeral arrangements. We know that people loved Shadow so they would like to extend their support to the family. But right now we don’t have a confirmation on the cause of his death, but as soon as we do and funeral arrangements are finalised, we will make an official statement,” a family member said.
Bailey’s son, Sharlan, was unable to speak with Guardian Media, as he said he was busy organising things at the hospital.
Bailey won Road March titles in 1974 (Bassman) and 2001 (Stranger) and the Calypso Monarch title in 2000 with “What’s Wrong With Me” and “Scratch Meh Back.” He also beat out much younger talent to win the International Soca Monarch title with “Stranger” in 2001.
But he was also famous for other big hits, including “Poverty is Hell,” which became a poor man’s anthem, “Yuh Lookin for Horn,” “Feeling the Feeling,” “Tension” and “Obeah.”
Bailey’s death comes mere weeks after the cultural fraternity lost iconic pannist Ken “Professor” Philmore, who died from internal injuries he sustained in an accident last month.
He gave Sparrow, Kitch hell
As news of Bailey’s death travelled, tributes began pouring in on social media from friends, fellow calypsonians, various Government ministries and even from the Office of the Prime Minister.
In a release from the PM’s office, Bailey was hailed as a revolutionary who changed the sound and face of calypso.
“His music told us stories about ourselves through poignant social commentary which was often fused with wry humour. Over the years his contribution to the development of our local music earned him regional and international acclaim,” the release said.
It also highlighted Bailey’s 2003 achievement of receiving the T&T Humming Bird Medal (silver) for his contribution to the calypso art form.
Veteran arranger and pianist Pelham Goddard, who travelled extensively on tour with Bailey as the founder and leader of the Charlie’s Roots band, said, “He made one of the greatest contributions to calypso and gave ‘big guns’ like Kitchener and Sparrow a run for their money when he came on the scene.
“Everybody only knew Sparrow (Slinger “Mighty Sparrow” Francisco) and Kitch (Aldwyn “Lord Kitchener” Roberts). But when Shadow came out in his first appearance at Kitchener’s tent, he brought something different that immediately caught the attention of the people.”
He also described his “old friend” as a free and “go-lucky-kind” of person who loved good times.
Asked what made Bailey so unique as a calypsonian, Goddard said he was a “rule breaker of music.”
“He knew his music, he knew what he wanted and he broke all the rules of music and that is what gave him his hits.”
Goddard said Bailey was cheated out of the rights and recognition of his 1977 song Everybody is Somebody, when it was featured on the soundtrack of the 1989 motion picture Lean On Me, which starred Morgan Freeman. He said at the time, the publisher of the song gave the rights to the producer of the film, which hurt and upset Bailey for years.
Goddard worked on may Shadow songs, like Bassman, I Come Out To Play, Jump Judges Jump and Children ‘Ting,’ to name a few.
Cro Cro: He opened doors for others
Calypsonian Weston “Cro Cro” Rawlins attributed his own “come up” in calypso to Bailey. He said it was Bailey who took him under his wing and started him off in 1973.
“Everywhere you see Shadow, you used to see me. People used to say I was Shadow’s shadow,” Rawlins said jovially.
He added, “We did so many things together. When I came from south and had nowhere to stay, I lived by Shadow for a long time. Shadow gave me my first guitar when he came back from Grenada.”
Singing Bailey’s The Threat, Rawlins said Shadow was the only calypsonian at the time who dared to challenge Kitchener and Sparrow.
Trinbago Unified Calypso Organisation (TUCO) head Lutalo “Brother Resistance,” Masimba said Bailey was of international stature when it came to his music. He credited Bailey with changing the landscape of calypso and soca music.
“His personification on the drum and bass led to a different emphasis on rhythm as part of calypso music. He opened doors for other artistes who thought the door was closed for them.”
Asked if TUCO would be planning any special tribute in memory of the fallen member, Masimba said if anything had to be done they would only proceed after discussions with the family.
Producer, arranger and friend Leston Paul, who worked once with Bailey, said; “Shadow was an artiste of complexity. You had to be on a certain musical and spiritual level to understand him. Just as his lyrics were, so was his regular conversation.”
He added that Bailey’s musical vibrations came directly from his heart and soul.
“Another legend has passed. I will miss him.”