Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Fitzroy Alexander, '26, San Fernando, Trinidad; d 26 Sep. '88, Trinidad) Calypsonian/soca artist aka Melo; regarded as the master of bouncy and tuneful calypsos and dean of calypso tent MC. After his Grenadian mother and Trinidadian father separated he was raised at the Belmont Orphanage in Port of Spain from age eight to 14, where he had a record of truancy and formed a passion for military songs (calypsos were banned); left to join his mother in Arima, there befriended Aldwyn Roberts, later known as Lord Kitchener. Kitchener's success probably encouraged Alexander to enter calypso arena; began singing in rum shops (equivalent to pubs or bars) mid-'40s as Lord Livingstone; dubbed Lord Melody by a calypso tent manager he was introduced to Lord Invader (Rupert Grant: d Oct. '61, NYC); debuted at short-lived calypso venue '45, transferred same season to Atilla the Hun's and Roaring Lion's Victory Tent; joined House of Lords Tent '46, sang 'Chinese Scandal' that season; moved to innovative Young Brigade Tent '47 co-founded that season by Kitchener and Mighty Killer. Won unofficial Road March '48 with 'Canaan Barrow'; that season also sang inventive 'Berlin On A Donkey' poking fun at the deceased Hitler. In the absence of a National Calypso King contest '49 (title renamed Calypso Monarch '78), Melody was widely acclaimed as uncrowned King for his 'Glory Mama Glory'.

There were also no official Calypso King contests '50--52; during '51 season calypsonians staged their own contest at the Victory Tent and crowned Melody King for 'Jonah And The Bake'. He reached final of reinstated Calypso King competition '53; controversially won King title '54 with 'Second Spring', his detractors alleged that the song wasn't a real calypso. Reached Calypso King final '56 (sang 'Hurricane Janet') and '58; during '59 season joined Mighty Sparrow and Mighty Spoiler in boycott of official Calypso King competition and performed Road March contender 'Michael'; King finalist again '60 and '67. Made albums Again! Lord Melody Sings Calypso, Through The Looking Glass, Lord Melody: Calypso 1962 mid-'50s to '62 on Emory Cook's Connecticut-based Cook label. Melody first met Sparrow '55, became friends the next year and extensively toured Caribbean together; both featured on LP Melody And Sparrow '60 on RCA. Left Sparrow's Original Young Brigade tent after friction with some managers, taking some of the tent's calypsonians with him to reorganize and manage Calypso Revue tent '67--8 with Kitchener as lead singer (regarded as Kitch's tent, Revue began '64, but didn't open '66 due to a disagreement with the venue proprietor); Melody both performed in the Revue and acted as co-MC. Sang a number of comical self- denigrating calypsos about his supposed 'ugliness' incl. 'Mama Look A Boo Boo' '56, which was made an international hit by Harry Belafonte's cover version '57; theme of his 'ugliness' ran through a string of over 20 picong (traditional art of heckling, teasing, cleverly make fun of) calypsos exchanged with Sparrow '58--63. Resided in NYC late '60s to early '70s, there contracted to compose for Belafonte, who had also made a big hit of Melody's older calypso 'Shame And Scandal In The Family'; a deal with an American firm meant Melo saw little of his earnings from Belafonte, who was criticized '83 by then Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga for profiting from Caribbean musical heritage. Made series of LPs early to mid- '70s on Straker's: Salt 'N' Pepper, Mas Is Devil Power, Grine- Am; contributed two tracks to collection Super Calypso Hits Volume 1 '73 on Camille. Embraced soca on LPs I Man '79 (incl. hit 'Rastaman'), Sugar Jam '80 (hypnotically melodic title track was a minor hit), Pan Rhapsody '81, all on Charlie's; switched to B's for albums Brown Sugar '82, Lola '83 and 12]im[ single 'Strange Feeling' '84. After a long illness, died of cancer '88. Sparrow paid tribute with 'Melo' '89 (from All In The Game on Charlie's) incl. lines: 'Belafonte must give us an explanation, Come out and say what happened to Melo's million, Harry is a multi-millionaire New Yorker, Melo was a poor man and he died a pauper, Tell Harry for me that Lord Melody was calling, His name all in the cemetery.' Recommended collection: Precious Melodies '94 in Ice's Caribbean Classic Series.