Calypso mourns Winsford Devine, shaper of the craft

Winsford Devine, photographed at his home. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.
Winsford Devine, photographed at his home. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

He was known as one of Trinidad and Tobago’s best and most prolific songwriters. It was no surprise then that news of Winsford “Joker” Devine’s death on Tuesday drew widespread mourning and sadness.

Devine gave TT some of its most memorable calypsoes including Sparrow’s Marajhin, Saltfish, Phillip My Dear, Baron’s Feeling It and King Austin’s Progress.

Devine died on Tuesday at 77, leaving to mourn his wife Theresa and seven children.

He was awarded the Humming Bird Medal Silver (for music and the arts) in 1988 and an honorary degree in 2017 from the UWI, St Augustine Campus.

Musician and producer Carl "Beaver" Henderson said on a personal level, he connected with Devine from working on the 1979 classic Progress, sung by the late King Austin. Henderson said besides writing it, Devine had a big say in the arrangement of the classic calypso.

He said Devine was the most influential and biggest shaper in the history of calypso in terms of melodies and lyrics.

The best way to honour what Devine had done, he said, was not just to lean on Government but generally to support the craft.

“Keep that part of our culture alive,” he said.

Calypsonian Edwin “Crazy” Ayoung said he had cried for the entire morning since 4 am, when Devine’s widow had called him.

“We did about 200 songs together. He used to do the lyrics and I do the melody,” he said.

He said he and Devine had two new songs together, one called Philanthropy and the other Eternal Love.

He said Devine was one of TT’s greatest writers.

“The writers that they have now are good. But he...he was special. He was a gift from God,” Crazy said.

The Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO) issued a release on Tuesday on Devine, saying he had composed more than 500 calypsoes during a career that spanned over 40 years.

TUCO said it was saddened to learn of the passing of the prolific songwriter and giant in the art form.

The release said Devine was born on August 15, 1943.

“Originally from Morne Diablo, south Trinidad, Devine was exposed to steelband music at a very young age when he played in the village steelband.

“The leader of the steelband was a cousin of his and he introduced him to reading and writing music,” the release said.

As Devine grew older, he developed into a self-taught musician.

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts said in a release its line minister Randall Mitchell was deeply saddened by the news of Devine's death.

“One of his most popular songs, Progress, which was sung by King Austin, was declared by TUCO as the song of the last millennium,” the release added.

It added that Devine served as a mentor in the former Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts’ Mentoring by the Masters programme.

Mitchell was quoted in the release as saying, "his contribution exemplified his commitment to TT's culture through calypso.

“His iconic contribution has advanced calypso over the past decades. Many of his songs will continue to inspire and uplift us today and in the future."

His daughter Allison told Newsday, “My mum is okay. We are doing okay.

"Death is always a shock, nobody is expecting it. He wasn’t too well and would always tell us brace ourselves, because he thinks the end coming near for him.

She said the family often took it as “just talk.”

“I am guessing he knew best and God knows best.”

The Devine family confirmed that he did not die from the covid19 virus.

Allison said her father had his ups and downs because he was diabetic had high blood pressure and had had two strokes previously.

The family said there was nothing else they would want the country to do to honour Devine.

Allison said at one point her father had some grievances with how the calypso fraternity treated him, but the family believes he got over it.

“And as children growing up, coming down to the last, we learnt to accept certain things, because he accepted it.”


"Calypso mourns Winsford Devine, shaper of the craft"

More in this section