In 1979 the New York Times wrote that “people who will not trust politicians will listen to the common sense commentary of a celebrated calypso singer and song-writer like Calypso Rose.”
The fourth of 13 children, Linda McCartha Monica Sandy-Lewis, was born on April 27, 1940, in Bethel, Tobago, the birthplace of Calypso.
Calypso Rose, as she is known worldwide, is not the first female singer of Calypso music, but she is considered the mother of female Calypsonians. Her more than 1000 songs and over 20 albums tackle life’s social and political issues.
Even though her parents initially opposed her singing in Carnival tents, saying calypso “belongs to the devil,” it did not stop her from pursuing her dream. She started singing at age 13, and her career was greatly influenced by Lord Kitchener, the “grandmaster of Calypso.”
In 1966, her song “Fire in Meh Wire” was translated into eight different languages and was the first calypso to run two years in a row at the Trinidad Carnival.
Over the years, Calypso Rose became so influential with her music that she began winning road march titles outside Trinidad. She won her first title in the Virgin Islands and, in 1978, was the first female to win the national road march title in Trinidad. That year the Calypso King competition changed its name to Calypso Monarch because of her female influence.
Her talent was not only confined to music. She has had roles in three movies; Bacchanal Time (1979), One Hand Don’t Clap (1991), and Calypso Rose: The Lioness of the Jungle (2011).
As a result of her incredible career and influence, Calypso Rose has received over twenty awards and honors from her country and internationally. In 2014 she was presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of the West Indies. Trinidad and Tobago gave her the country’s highest honor in 2017; The Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. That same year, she won the French Grammy Victoire de la Musique in Paris because of her album “Far From Home.” The latter she designated as one of the “two proudest moments” of her life. The other was winning the Calypso Monarch.
Over the years, Rose has had several health issues. She survived breast cancer in 1996, stomach cancer in 1998, diabetes, and two heart attacks.
She currently lives in New York. At age 82, this musician and songwriter has been one of the most prominent ambassadors of Calypso music for Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.
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