Trinidad and Tobago

Steelpan

Iím still batting, says Rose

March 18, 2001

CONTRARY to a definitive statement made in the contentious song "Heroes", Calypso Rose is free of breast cancer, a fact reconfirmed less than a month ago by experts at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Rose said plans were already in train to sue "Heroes" composer Kurt Allen for what she described on Tuesday as "a wicked inference" that she is suffering from breast cancer. In a verse dedicated to Rose, the song joined her in its overall appeal for tributes to be paid to calypsonians before they die.

Apart from legal costs involved, Rose plans to claim "at least $150,000," the sum Allen is due to receive from the winnings of Denyse Plummer; whose performance of "Heroes" helped her win two major national calypso titles and cash prizes amounting to some $450,000 at last monthís Carnival.

In a letter from the Mount Sinai Radiology Department dated February 21 and addressed to McCartha Lewis (Calypso Rose), the respected institution wrote: "We are pleased to tell you that the result of your most recent mammogram at Queenís Hospital Center appears to have no suspicious findings."

And while the letter is careful to note that mammography does not detect all breast cancer, watching Rose at work last week at Eddy Grantís studio in Barbados, it was difficult to reconcile so vibrant an effort with calypso lyrics that claim she is stricken with a debilitating illness.

Dressed in knee-length shorts and T-shirt, Rose belted out song after song, at a session that began early Sunday afternoon and went until 2 a.m. Monday. Less than ten hours later, she had finished a hearty breakfast and was back in the studio, working that time until 8 p.m. Tuesday followed Mondayís pattern.

At every sequence, Rose demonstrated deceptively youthful vigour (given that she turns 61 on April 27), singing with strong and clear voice, directing the overall effort and shortening scheduled breaks to drive her musicians and recording engineer Viking Tundah back to work.

During the very breaks, even when Rose watched cricket on television, she would often spring from the couch to demonstrate what each batsman or bowler should have done. During slow periods in the game, she spent her time retailing highly animated and colourful anecdotes about her experiences over the 45 years she has been in show business.

Producer Grant, Osibisa drummer Kofi and the Trini musicians, Al Bushe, Arnold "Sly" Punnette and 24-year-old keyboard player Ricardo Ramseshwar frequently expressed amazement at Roseís perpetual ebullience and apparently self-replenishing energy, conditions that remained undiluted by the odd tot of Mount Gay Special rum.

Speaking to the Sunday Express, Rose explained that in 1996 she had been diagnosed with cancer of the breast and underwent corrective surgery. "Since then, I have had regular mammograms and all of them keep showing the same resultóthat the treatment was successful and there is no trace of any growth there now," she said.

"For a songwriter to now tell the world that I am suffering with breast cancer at this age, has a severe effect on potential business," she said.

"Everyone can find me for all sorts of questions, but no one called to ask if I had any health problem."

Rose, who is a fixture on Carnival Line Cruises, said she returned to New York on February 24 to find the letter from Mount Sinai in her mailbox and at the same time, 49 messages on her telephone voice-mail enquiring about her health. "I had messages from producers and promoters all over the world and calls from friends who were believing I was dying or in serious pain and perhaps I could not fulfil my engagements," she said.

"This is not picong, it is serious calypso and writers have to know that they must check the facts before putting peopleís names in songs and talking about something that could affect another person in this way. I work for myself. If something is wrong with my health, I stand to lose opportunities and as a result, my earnings will suffer. In fact, I already have problems explaining to people that I am in good health, since the song became so popular.

"My old godmother in Tobago, the lady is blind and only hearing the song on the radio. She was crying when she called, saying she didnít know things were so bad and I was suffering so much and asking how long I had to live," Rose said. "Somebody has to pay for that and the somebody is the writer who said it in the first place. I am fit and as healthy as Iíve ever been and I thank God for it."

From all appearances, Rose is healthier than ever. On Tuesday she was putting down the final three songs of a yet unnamed ten-track album bassist Bushe described as "extremely powerful." Among the calypsoes she seemed to particularly enjoy was one called "Ah Still Batting".

Last week, Calypso King of the World, The Mighty Sparrow described references to the health of Calypso Rose in "Heroes" as both insensitive and unnecessary. Sparrow said: "It is clear that the songwriter had the most noble of intentions, but to make public statements on Roseís health is something not even her doctor would do and in this case added no value to the composition."


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