LORD Superior was a pioneer in the calypso world who leaves behind a career that was as long as it was studded with significant firsts.
Born in a sleepy corner of Rio Claro in South Trinidad in 1938, Marcano made his debut in calypso at 16, singing a number called Coconut at the Victory Calypso Tent in Port of Spain. He went on to become one of the longest-standing and most vocal advocates for the art form in a career that spanned six decades.
According to the National Carnival Commission, Superior, who died on Saturday in New York, was the first calypsonian to produce his debut record under his own music label (La Carib, 1959); the first to perform at Madison Square Garden (1968); and the first to open a year-round calypso tent (Legion Hall, 1976). At one stage, he owned a radio station, Superior Radio, that was specifically dedicated to calypso 24 hours per day, having fought a battle to obtain a radio licence.
Superior will be remembered for tunes such as Spread Joy, San Fernando Carnival, Saga T’ing, We Want A Day, Standardise Pan, Cultural Assassination and Put the Women on Top, and his tribute to Barack Obama, Black Coffee.
Yet he was also an exceptional exponent of the art of extempo. Even when he faltered, as he did during his war with Lord Relator during the 1987 Dimanche Gras, Superior showed skill and versatility. A video of their encounter is among the most watched of its kind on YouTube.
Superior also pushed calypso into new territory, producing the country’s first full-length calypso musical, Calypical, at the Little Carib Theatre in 1985. At a time when calypso was yet to break through to certain audiences, he was the first calypsonian to perform in a Catholic church, performing at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Port of Spain.
“He spent much of his life both on and off stage promoting TT culture through the calypso art form,” noted the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts in a statement.
Superior’s death is the third major loss to hit the calypso world in the last few months, following the deaths of Shadow and De Fosto, and marking the sunset of a trail-blazing generation. Their deaths have triggered much reflection on the place of calypso today in a fast-paced, global society where soca has taken over.
In this regard, some years ago a suggestion was made for the construction of a calypso museum that could go some way to maintaining our history. It’s indeed time for better steps to be taken to preserve the legacy of our calypso heroes.