Trinidad and Tobago

Terry's beach banner

Prowler tributes pour in

By Terry Joseph
September 26, 2003

Condolences to his relatives and tributes to the late Mystic Prowler (Roy Lewis) have been pouring in almost non-stop since news of his untimely death reached fans around the world.

Prowler, who succumbed to a heart attack last Saturday, will be buried this morning at the St Mary's Public Cemetery after a 10 am funeral service at Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Organisations and private individuals abroad universally lamented his passing, some organising performance tributes and vigils in his name. Last Sunday night, radio station 96.9FM/UK treated Londoners to a bloc of Prowler's music. Listener Stacey Ramkissoon was saddened but philosophical, saying "the calypso orchestra in heaven is expanding."

Miami Carnival Inc chairman, Francis Ragoo wrote: "We have really lost a great one. We hold his work in high regard. He was a calypso historian of a different sort, not committing his knowledge to books on the subject but actually singing the work of those who went before him and by so doing, educating the masses on what calypso was like in the good ol' days. Our condolences to his relatives."

Trinidad-born Toronto-based Caribana public relations officer and show-promoter, Elsworth James described Prowler as "one of the purest entertainers ever to grace the calypso stage. Not just his music but his lifestyle impressed a lot of us. On behalf of all his fans in Toronto and especially on behalf of my family and myself, please extend our deepest sympathies through your newspaper," James said.

Eric St Bernard got the news while hosting Dawad Phillip's Caribbean Jazz Waves show in New York. "I actually got the news while Mavis John was performing Kitchener's "The Carnival is Over" and the audience response to that song was as if they knew. When they did, the response was astonishing," St Bernard said.

Michael Horne and Geoffrey Dunn, producers of the soon-to-be-released film Calypso Dreams (in which Prowler is one of the featured artistes) said: "We are profoundly saddened to learn of Prowler's death. He is a leading figure in our film and his bar, 'De Mystic Inn,' at the City Gate bus station in Port of Spain, serves as a backdrop for several of the songs performed in the movie by both Prowler and Brigo.

"We often stopped by to see him perform there and at the Mas Camp pub. He was a 'people's monarch', and his song "Look Below the Surface" will be remembered as a classic.

"It is a tragedy of grand proportions that his performance in our film will now get only posthumous acclaim. We had very much looked forward to him being part of the Calypso Dreams Kaiso Caravan world tour.

"All of us who worked on the film offer our sincere condolences to his family. Long live Kaiso!"

On Wednesday night, reigning national calypso monarch, Singing Sandra opened her segment at The Mas Camp Pub saying: "I am not going to ask for a minute's silence for Prowler because he was such a commanding performer, he got absolute silence whenever he was onstage. Instead, I will dedicate my first two songs to him."

She brought tears from members of the audience with her rendition of "Then My Living Shall Not Be in Vain" (a song Prowler frequently did during his period of abject spirituality) and "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", calling on Gregory "GB" Ballantyne, composer of several of Prowler's hit calypsoes, to join her in a duet; one that brought a tremendous burst of applause from the packed house.

Toronto-based calypso collector and historian George Maharaj is going one step further, by dedicating this Sunday's Kaiso Breakfast Lime at Sylvan's on Eglinton Avenue, Scarborough to The Mystic Prowler.

"We will be reflecting on the life of this great calypsonian in music and song. Prowler was born in St.Vincent but, like several other calypso giants, moved to Trinidad at an early age.

"I have followed his career since he started singing calypso with Lord Superior's Calypso Caravan in 1966, through his triumphs at the Buy Local competitions from 1967 to 1969 and up to his victory at the national calypso" monarch contest in 1998 and beyond.

"Prowler will be remembered as one of the best who sang vintage calypsoes and his cd Vintage Calypsoes is still a best seller.

"RIP my brother, your works will always be remembered at The Kaiso Breakfast Limes in Toronto just as we do for Andre Tanker, Lord Kitchener, Lord Shorty and others," Maharaj said.

Sunday's special Kaiso Breakfast show will feature Toronto-based calypsonians Deacon, Luv Bug, Zado, Connector, Richard Luces (with his new band), Pappy Fredricks and Prowler's long-time calypso compadre, The Mighty Santa.

Caribbean Sunshine Awards founder and chairman Gilman Figaro saw the news of Prowler's sudden passing as cause of great sorrow. "The Caribbean Sunshine Awards organization joins with the family, Government, and people of Trinidad & Tobago in mourning the loss of this wonderful calypsonian.

"With Mystic Prowler's death, the world of calypso has lost a true exponent of the art form. With a career spanning over 30 years, he has performed for and entertained several generations of music lovers and he will surely be missed.

"He was a calypsonian who recognized the importance of the continuity and integrity of calypso. He shared with his fans his respect and appreciation of veteran calypsonians by performing many of their songs. This was his way of recognizing their importance to calypso and of paying tribute to them for their contribution to the art form."

It is, indeed, a remarkable achievement for any performer to have a sustained and successful career spanning three generations. Mystic Prowler is among the few who have achieved this. In 1999, he was the recipient of a Sunshine Award for the Best Political Commentary with his song, "Vision of T&T in theYear 2020."

Dr. Hollis "Chalkdust" Liverpool said, "The calypso world will miss him, especially when so many of our bards are off course in terms of the calypso tradition. Besides a calypsonian he was a friend to calypso fans who swarmed around him not only to hear calypso but also to be entertained otherwise by his fruitful and energetic spirit."

Terry's Homepage