Thursday, January 15, 2009


paying homage: Dr Hollis "Chalkdust" Liverpool speaks about the career of calypso icon The Mighty Duke during an October 2007 tribute in his honour hosted by the University of Trinidad and Tobago at the Central Bank Auditorium in Port of Spain. -Photo: ROBERTO CODALLO

The Mighty Duke is dead.

The seventy-six-year-old veteran calypsonian yesterday died of myelofibrosis at the Ellerslie Private Hospital in St Clair around 1 p.m. He was rushed there at noon on Tuesday after taking a turn for the worse. Just last week he had undergone a blood transfusion as part of treatment for the incurable disease that prevents the body from producing new blood cells . He had battled against it for the past five years.

In spite of his illness, the Mighty Duke stole the show at the Klassic Russo Calypso Tent last year with his witty calypso "Doh Say I Say", which left audiences in stitches at very show. He was the consummate artiste to the very end, commanding attention by just his mere presence. Had he survived the illness, Duke would have been performing a calypso entitled "Do Better For Calypso" at the Klassic Russo Calypso Tent for the 2009 Carnival season.

Born Kelvin Pope in Point Fortin in 1932, Duke left a potentially lucrative career in the oil industry to become a full-time calypsonian, having started performing his calypsoes while still working at the Shell Oil Company. Duke's family thought him mad when he walked away from his job to write and perform calypso and his wife even left him, but Duke was confident he would make it.

Duke more than made it. He went on to become the most versatile calypsonian ever and accomplished what none ever did-winning the National Calypso Monarch title four years in a row. He was promoting black consciousness before the idiom was coined and will always be remembered as the best-dressed calypsonian there was.

In his time, Duke created and mastered every genre of calypso and his many classic works have explored social issues, black pride, political issues, humorous topics, double entendre and romance. He did jump and wine calypsoes, music for the steelpan and so much more music and calypsoes that were considered out of the proverbial box. He also composed hit songs for others, including Lord Nelson.

Duke's professional career began at a small tent in Point Fortin during the 1950s and in the early 1960s he moved on to the Southern Brigade Calypso Tent in San Fernando. He came to Port of Spain in 1964, performing at the Original Young Brigade, quickly becoming the biggest threat to The Mighty Sparrow.

In 1968, Duke claimed his first National Calypso Monarch title with "What Is Calypso" and "Social Bacchanal". He went on to hold on to the title for the next three years-in 1969 with "Black Is Beautiful" and "One Foot Visina", in 1970 singing "Brotherhood of Man" and "See Through" then in 1971 performing "Mathematical Formula" and "Melvine & Yvonne".

In 1987, Duke won the National Road March title with "Thunder". In 1970, he was awarded the Hummingbird Medal Silver for his contribution to the calypso artform.


Calypso world mourns The Mighty Duke

The Dying Art—penned for ’09 Monarch contest

Published: January 14th, 2009

Kelvin Pope ...The Mighty Duke

Ailing calypso icon Kelvin Pope’s (The Mighty Duke) last wish was to enter the 2009 Calypso Monarch. The four-time Calypso Monarch and former Road March winner spent his last days in the studio of his Cocorite home where he penned the calypso, The Dying Art. The song, which tells of the dying calypso culture being replaced by soca music, is one of the many tunes Duke had begun writing to contest this year’s Calypso Monarch. Originally from Handell Road, Point Fortin, Duke, 77, who was suffering with myelofibrosis, passed away at the Ellerslie Park Private Hospital around 1.05 pm yesterday, where he had been admitted on Tuesday after complaining of feeling ill. His wife Rebecca John-Pope, son Wendell and calypsonian Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool, were at his bedside when he took his last breath.

“He wanted to sing for Carnival...Duke had planned to enter the Calypso Monarch,” his grieving wife said yesterday as she left Guides Funeral Home in Port-of-Spain. “For hours he sat down in his office writing songs because he was determined to participate in calypso competitions this year, but it was not be.” Ensuring that he was prepared for the Carnival season, John-Pope said her husband had dropped off several yards of suiting material at his tailor in Trincity. “He bought several pieces of material and gave it to his tailor...He wanted to collect the suits in time for the opening week of the Klassic Ruso tent where he was carded to perform,” she said. “He wanted to make sure that everything was in place for his performance.”

John-Pope said hours before Duke died, he was in a happy mood.
“He was filled with so much of humour that when the doctor was unable to find his vein, he told him to bring a hammer and nail everyone one was laughing...I cannot believe he is gone.” As news of Duke’s death spread yesterday, the calypso fraternity extended condolences to the family. Chairman of the south region of Trinidad Unified Calypso Organisation (Tuco) Steve Pascall expressed shock over his sudden passing. Pascall said Duke’s death came on the heels of another calypsonian, Clarence Butler, better known as Saccharine who died on Monday. “The entire calypso fraternity is mourning...Even though we knew he was ailing, we did not expect his death at this time, especially during Carnival season,” he said. “Tuco will help in any way possible. ”

Offering to assist with funeral arrangements, chairman of the Community Development, Culture and Celebrations committee, Councillor Sean Bharath, also expressed shock over Duke’s death.
“We have lost a legend. The Mighty Duke contribution to Point Fortin has been immense and infinite,” he said.


Myelofibrosis is a form of leukaemia affecting bone marrow, and is most common in people over 50. The condition gradually changes bone marrow into scar tissue, inhibiting the bone marrow tissue to create new cells. Source:


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