By EDDY GRANT
The following text was delivered on Eddy Grant’s behalf by Josanne Leonard at the funeral service for Kelvin Pope, the Mighty Duke at Coronation Park, the Point Fortin on Thursday January 22, 2009. Grant was in Australia at the time.
To: The Wonderful Family of Kelvin Pope (a/k/a The Mighty Duke)
To: Lovers of Classic Calypso Music the World over.
To: The People of The Caribbean
Over the last decade or so, I have been cast in the role of Father, brother, son and friend of some of the greatest talents that God has blessed this planet with. I have seen them in every conceivable state as together we have tried to elevate and transform both themselves and their chosen art-form Calypso into one that could sit alongside others with properly accorded pride, respect and dignity. With all of them, as with all men and women of this world, there have been weaknesses, some more than others. It is not ever my position to judge any of them, even if it was my desire to do so. It never was, and it still is not; I love them all for the awesomeness of either their sheer talent or their humanity or in some cases both.
Today, again I find myself having to deal with another extreme loss, a loss of such magnitude that had I not been fully prepared by the person himself for this momentous and so final event, maybe someone-else would be writing this address and thereby I would be speaking to your hearts from a different location.
Ladies and gentlemen, here lies the material body of Kelvin Pope, a brother that neither my Mother nor Father made for me …. an extremely gifted brother. In fact had my Mom and Dad graced me with such privilege as having him as a blood brother, I might have treated him like we, especially it seems those of us here in the Caribbean, tend to treat our own. But say what, if that is how we is, then that is how we is; it certainly never bothered “Dukie”, for that is what I called him, this greatest of the greatest of Caribbean artists, and human being extraordinaire. Oh yes, there will be many, many words written about “Dukie”, as there have been during his lifetime and indeed during the lifetimes of all the other great ones who have predeceased him. There will be calls of all kinds, but haven’t we learned anything yet? “Dukie” stands supreme in many disciplines of life, even in death. I choose to allow others who will eulogize him at this time and those who may or may not have known him as I did, to enlighten you with the generally well-known career achievements of his exemplary life. You see, this, (apart from the fact that he was one of the legion of Great Calypsonians to grace my little Ice Record label), was why we were such close friends. Dukie liked people who would tell it like it is; people who not only wrote some clever words in preparation for the Carnival season when they hoped to win a crown of dubious long-term value, but caring people, really caring people, worldwide and world-wise thinkers on matters that impacted on others.
He was most articulate in this form of thinking and behaving, which is what really set him apart. So much has been overtly made of his particular modes of dress, that sometimes one would have to wonder about our broken sense of values that would allow a whole region’s vision to stop at a man’s attire, and not allow one to see the real man. “Dukie” was a real-real man, he had many concerns regarding our progress or lack thereof; of our world’s journey into what looks like, at a cursory glance, to be a journey from which our world will not return in good condition. He wrote about these kinds of things, not only about bacchanal, a subject on which he was also an expert, but real message songs regardless of the fashion at the time.
Do you have any idea of what Dukie would have faced coming as he did from the South of Trinidad as a journeyman Calypsonian seeking to make an imprint on the sacred fabric of Calypso and taking back to Point Fortin (South Trinidad) not one, not two, Not Three but four consecutive Calypso Monarch Titles from 1968 to 1971? Are you joking or what? Everybody who was considered great in calypso at the time was around, yet Dukie was indestructible. He has truly earned the sobriquet Mighty. So now he’s no longer with us in body, only in song, which is maybe where he was the strongest anyway, as no pernicious disease can destroy those songs….great songs that will stand the test of time…songs written by his own hand with all the cleverness of his very swift mind…. a real legacy to the world that he loved so much and which love he unreservedly expressed in so many of his songs. The Mighty Duke would appreciate the irony of this situation. We have discussed it on the many occasions on which we have engaged in serious discussion on the precarious nature of nature itself and the arrogant little creatures broadly named mankind who exist as an almost insignificant part of it. Don’t get me wrong, Dukie wanted to live. Dying was not an option in his eyes. He was also physically a very strong and handsome man, gifted from his genealogical background. Mother Pope, his Mum, who he never tired talking to me about, imbued in him most, if not all of the values he came to be revered for, among his true friends and admirers, cast an almost saint-like persona over and within her magnificent son.
He has shown us all through his illness, an unusual degree of fortitude and majestic grace, even in the face of his final earthbound adversary, death. It was his intention to compete on the Grand Stage at least one more time but that was not part of nature’s plan. The rest, as The Mighty Duke knew only too well, would depend on you, the people he loved, you the governments upon whose actions and deliberations he observed with an eagle eye now forever closed and commented on and tried to guide; you the youth of the world in whom he had great hopes for the future, especially when it came to an appreciation and practice of his beloved Classic Calypso. My great friend “Dukie”, The Mighty Duke, Kelvin Pope, all these people he was, is no more in flesh; I am sad, I can’t help it, I am angry as I’m thousands of miles away and he has told his loyal Queen Rebecca who worked so hard with his fantastic doctors nurses and other medical professionals to preserve his earthly life, that his buddy, his confidant, his trusted guide in the latter part of his career, would be there at his demise, to guide one last time this uncertain journey of his -and I can’t because of the promises I have made in advance as a practicing artist, that like “Dukie” would know, I always keep.
Death very rarely alerts us of its intentions with regard to time and place so situations like these will happen from time to time. Rebecca, you know his heart and his desires, such as they were in his so recently expired life, you and his children would also know at first hand the deep love and respect we held for each other; yes, I would like to beseech each and everyone to celebrate the life of the Mighty Duke, a great life well spent but my eyes and heart are not as intelligent as my brain, and so in the tradition of so many who have loved and cared for someone this great, I cry. What the hell would Dukie say? He’d say “Is awright family, is awright”.
May God take him to a safe place as we all stand in line waiting for the train. God Bless.
Ringbang for life -Eddy