Slinger Francisco OBE
Dr Slinger Francisco was born 9 July 1935 in Grand Roy, Grenada, West Indies.
He is well-known as a calypso singer, songwriter and guitarist, but is generally referred to as ‘Birdie’ or ‘The Mighty Sparrow’.
Slinger's family moved to Port of Spain, Trinidad when he was about one year old. He was educated at New Town Boys School, and his enthusiasm for singing led him to become the head choir boy for the St Patrick’s Catholic Church Choir. At the age of 14, he started playing pan and joined a local steelband.
From the start of his career Slinger changed the image of all calypsonians. Instead of remaining in a rigid position when singing, as was the custom, he would move around like a little sparrow flapping its wings (hence the name).
In 1956, Slinger's career took an upward turn when he changed his name from ‘Little Sparrow’ to 'Mighty Sparrow’. He also had a surprise success when he won the Carnival Road March and Calypso Monarch Competition with ‘Jean and Dinah’. Slinger was unhappy with prize money so in 1957, he returned with the tune ‘Carnival Boycott’ in an attempt to galvanise support from other calypsonians to boycott the competition. His main intention was to improve the working conditions for calypsonians and panmen and that eventually came a year later.
In 1958, he became the only calypsonian to have had a hat-trick of wins in the Road March Competition in one year. Later on that year, he moved to England to continue his career.
In 1960 Slinger returned to Trinidad and entered the Calypso Monarch competition winning both the Monarch and Road March titles.
In 1962 he performed at the London Carnival and also with Aldwyn Roberts at the Manchester Carnival.
In 1963 his calypso ‘Dan is the Man in the Van’ was the tune of choice for the winning steelband at the first official Panorama competition.
Over the next two decades he dominated the calypso by becoming the voice of the ordinary people. Many of his melodies also formed the foundations for winning Panorama arrangements.
In 1987 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree, Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies.
In 2008, he released a song supporting Barack Obama's presidential campaign, 'Barack the Magnificent'.
In 2011 Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharpe released a CD titled ‘A Tribute to the Mighty Sparrow’ using PHI. The CD comes complete with scores so that budding pannists can learn to play Slinger’s music.
In 2015, he was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), one month before his 80th birthday.
To many he will always be the "Calypso King of the World" and his music is believed to have changed the course of calypso worldwide.