Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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DUKE, Mighty

(b Kelvin Pope, Point Fortin, Trinidad; family from island of St Vincent) Versatile calypsonian and soca artist with commanding, stately stage presence and perfect diction. Played a duke in a school play and the name stuck; mother was a Baptist preacher; family home was over the church; grew up singing in Baptist and Catholic choirs; wrote poetry; composed first calypsos during '50s for Lord Syncopator; influenced by greats Kitchener, Spoiler, Cypher and Sparrow; worked as a pupil teacher late '50s. Started in a calypso tent in Point Fortin featuring Syncopator, Impresser, Calypso Joe, others; to San Fernando early '60s to sing in Southern Brigade tent with Power, Stalin, Shorty (later Ras Shorty I), others; won South Calypso King title '60--62; left Point for Port of Spain to sing in Sparrow's Original Young Brigade tent '64--7; his early hit 'Woop Wap' and 'Racial Segregation' collected on Caribbean Carnival c'64 on Mace. Qualified for National Calypso King final (title renamed Calypso Monarch '78) for first time '68 (his public statements over the years convey an ambivalent attitude to competition in calypso) catapulting to the first of four unprecedented consecutive wins '68--71 with 'What Is Calypso' and 'Social Bacchanal'; followed by 'Black Is Beautiful' and 'Visina' '69, 'Brotherhood Of Man' and 'See Through' '70 (latter incl. in All Night Tonight on MCA Int'l) and 'Mathematical Formula' and 'Melvie And Yvonne' '71 (despite Kitchener re-entering the contest that year in a bid to block a fourth Duke win; Kitch came second); also won Calypso King of St Thomas US Virgin Islands '68--9. Defended crown '72 against a field incl. Sparrow and Kitch, making their first contest appearance together since '64; Sparrow stopped Duke's fifth victory by beating him into last place; Kitch came second again. Released an album most years from late '60s incl. Black Is Beautiful, Exciting Calypso and Calypso la King on Tropico '69 to early '70s, A Message From The Man '74 on Camille (incl. hit 'Tonight'), Cock Of The Rock '75 on Star, Poetry And Music '77 on Charlie's (incl. Calypso King final selections 'Uhuru' and 'Mr Jarvis'), Tribute To Maestro '78. Had top ten hit '79 with 12]im[ single 'Bam Bam Oui'/'Do What You Doing' on Charlie's. Albums resumed with Harps Of Gold '80 on Sharc ('I could dead now, this is the best I have ever done,' said Duke); title track and cut 'Freaking Streaking' took him to last place in '80 Monarch final; came seventh in '81 final with 'Answer The Question' and 'A Point Of Direction', latter incl. on '82 release Over And Over And Over Again on B's; reached fourth place in '82 Monarch final with 'Mystery Of Life' and 'No Man But Me'. Switched to Straker's '83--6 for Carnival Anniversary '83 incl. hits 'Love Me All Over' and 'DJ Honeyneedle', top ten hit Calypso Forever '84 incl. 'Rock Meh', Land Of Love '85, In These Times '86 incl. anti-Apartheid classic 'How Many More Must Die' and 'Treat Your Woman Nice', which both took him to sixth place in '86 Monarch final. Won Road March crown '87 with 'Is Thunder' from Yesterday Today Tomorrow on Lem's; changed to JW Productions '88--90 for Poison '88 incl. hits 'Outrageous' and 'Pan In Yuh Rookcung-Kertungcung', Party For Yuh Life! '89 incl. 'Yahhh Hhhh' and Total Disorder '90, whose title track was a Road March contender '90. Hotel Time '91 on Charlie's incl. 'Get On Radical', a party style tune about the looting which occurred during '90 Trinidad coup attempt; title cut of The Phung-Uh-Nung Sweet on Straker's and track 'Rocket In Yuh Pocket' were major hits during '92 season; Calypso Ah King Ah Duke Ah Pope '93 on Spice Island/Kisskidee incl. his '93 tent selections 'Role Model' and 'Yuh Come To Dance'. Signed with Eddy Grant's Ice label, who required him to re-enter Monarch contest to promote albums; first Ice release Mask '94 incl. 'Soca Have Meh Tu Bey'; follow-up Spirit Of Calypso '95 incl. Monarch final numbers 'Don't Destroy Calypso' and 'Get A Life'; '96 selections 'Play Yourself' and 'Furhman' initially compiled on Ringbang Carnival Special '96 on Ice then incl. in Tumbuktu '97 on Grant's Blue Wave label issued late in '97 season.