Lord Superior (Andrew Marcano, Rio Claro, Trinidad and Tobago, November 30, 1937 - November 24, 2018) was a Trinidadian calypsonian.
Lord Superior made his debut into calypso at the age of 16 singing a calypso called "Coconut" at the Victory Calypso Tent in Port of Spain. In those days he was considered to be the youngest Calypsonian to perform locally.
Some of his memorable calypsoes were, Spread Joy, San Fernando Carnival, Saga T'ing, We want a day, Standardise Pan, Cultural Assassination and Put the women on top.
He was awarded the Hummingbird medal Silver in 2015 and received his Honourary Doctor of Letters at the 2017 graduation ceremony at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.
He was considered to be the first calypsonian to produce a record on his own record label, the first to Perform at the Madison Square Gardens, in New York, USA, and the first to produce a full-length calypso musical.
Born in Rio Claro on November 30, 1937, to Lionel and Mabel Marcano, Superior is one of the few living legends in the arts in T&T.
Superior attended St Therese RC School in Rio Claro and reached as far as Standard Seven where he spent two years. He didn't attend secondary school or have tertiary learning as he decided from a very young age that academics would not take him to his ultimate dream, to be an entertainer.
As a little boy growing up in Rio Claro, Superior did all the fun things little country boys did, including climbing trees, swimming in the river, "especially when it flooded," making and flying kites, and bursting bamboo. But, overriding everything, calypso was the lure for young Marcano.
Tracing his beginnings in calypso, Superior said: "I was already bitten by the calypso bug by the time I was a little boy. I used to hear some of the great singers, like Radio, Tiger, Melody, Spoiler and Kitchener, on the radio and whenever they performed at the Crown Theatre. At that point it was either to further my studies to be prepared to enter the workplace or become an entertainer. I was only interested in calypso and there was no school to teach at so I schooled myself in calypso. To get my higher learning I had to come to Port-of-Spain and sit at the feet of the masters. Most people study certain things just to get a conventional job and most times they find themselves unhappy. This didn't happen to me. In retrospect, I think that I was very fortunate to choose calypso over a conventional job.
"As a young man I absorbed every aspect of the calypso art form. I am skilled to handle any area of calypso."
Superior believes that to be a competent calypsonian the artiste must be competent in all elements of the genre. He explained: "Back in the day, to be a true calypsonian one had to be versed in the three main components of calypso; being a lyrical composer, a musical composer and a performer who mastered the art of extempore. That to me was a great challenge. Very few calypsonians at the time mastered all three components.
"I learned more from Pretender as a lyricist as he had an excellent vocabulary. Spoiler adopted me as a son and took me into his little batchee in Laventille and I lived there for a while. He had the greatest imagination. I learned music literacy from both Viking and Striker, two great musicians, along with Frankie Francis and Cyril Diaz. I learned a bit of entrepreneurship and understanding the business and advertising industry from Tiger (Neville Marcano)."
"Because of the knowledge I've acquired I can do everything there is to do in calypso. My knowledge in advertising gave me a handle to become involved in radio, but that is an entirely different story."
Superior owned his own radio station–94.1FM, now the urban station Boom Champions.
Reminiscing, he continued: "It was either Melody or Pretender who christened me in calypso. I was 16 and was called 'the 16-year-old wonder'."
Debuting at Victory Calypso Tent, located at 100 St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, in 1954 with the likes of Pretender, Melody and Sir Galba, Superior sang How Indians have progressed in Trinidad. The following year, he performed at the Dirty Jim Swizzle Club, located on South Quay. It was here he first met another young, rising calypsonian named Mighty Sparrow.
In 1956 he performed at The Young Brigade tent, housed at Good Samaritan Hall on Duke Street, with Sparrow, Skipper, King Fighter, Melody and Striker. It was the year that Sparrow would win his first Calypso King title.
Said Superior: "1957 was a very significant year as I initiated the protest against Mr Espinet of the Trinidad Guardian, producer of the Calypso King competition then, for giving the king a meagre $40 while the Carnival Queen received far more expensive prizes." In Brass Crown he sang, 'She gets refrigerators, machine, radios and even motorcars; sometime a Simmons bed; and all the king gets was a brass crown on his head'.
"This song helped to crystalise the determination of calypsonians to get their just due," remembers Superior. "A boycott of the Dimanche Gras show was organised and an alternative competition was held at the Globe Cinema in 1957. The boycott prompted the government to form an organisation to take over all Carnival events at the Savannah and named it the Carnival Development Committee (CDC).
"The Calypso King competition was held at the Queen's Park Savannah in 1958 with the king getting a crown, $600 and The Angostura Cup as the first prize. This won by the Mighty Striker, singing Don't Blame the PNM and Can't Find A Job To Suit Me. Simultaneously, what was a racially exclusive competition for the Carnival queen was now opened up to girls of colour and, for the first time, T&T had its first black Carnival Queen on the person of Pearl Marshall."
In 1959, Superior was the first calypsonian to produce his first record on his own label, named La Carib. The songs were Spread Joy and Sparrow Gun. Music was by Cyril Diaz Orchestra, with chorus by the March of Dimes.
Back in the day it was forbidden to sing calypsoes during the Lenten period or have them played on the radio. All this changed in 1962 when Superior sang Play Kaiso in Lent. Some of the song's lyrics were, "If a song immoral doh play it no time at all; but in Lent they will play rock and roll, meringue and mambo; and, some of these songs more vulgar than calypso". Superior said: "I made it to the Savannah in the final with that song but the reception to it was lukewarm. One must remember that we were a Christian-based society so the people were not ready for such a drastic change to their age-old beliefs."
In 1968, Superior was the first calypsonian to perform in Madison Square Garden, USA. Other guests appearances with him included Paul Newman, Ernest Borgnine, Peter, Paul and Mary. Superior said: "We the artistes were supporting US presidential Democrat hopeful Eugene McCarthy who was defeated by eventual president Richard Nixon. I was spending some time in New York then and I had a manager and PR person. They were connected with Frank Sinatra's publicity company named Jim Mahomney & Associates, and that's how I got that booking."
In 1974, Superior dropped out of all competitions after placing fourth in the Dimanche Gras calypso final, behind Mighty Sparrow, and Kitchener and Shadow, tied for second place. However, Superior won the crown in the San Fernando final, beating out prominent bards like Maestro, Mighty Duke, Black Stalin, Ras Shorty I. The 1975 he returned to defend the San Fernando crown and won again. That was the end of him in calypso competitions.
In 1976, Superior opened the country's first year-round calypso tent at Legion Hall, located on Independence Square West, breaking the tradition of limiting calypso to the Carnival season. He also produced the country's first full length calypso musical–Calypsical–in 1985 at Little Carib Theatre. That same year he was also the first calypsonian to perform in a Catholic church, doing so at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, at the 20th anniversary celebration of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Populorum Progressio. He sang Let There Be Peace On Earth, accompanied by Valley Harps Steel Orchestra.
"I still do a lot of performances in churches at Carnival time, in churches like St Patrick's, Carapichaima RC and Chaguanas RC," said Superior. "I do these fund-raisers to retain the spirit of our music in the midst of Carnival. I really enjoy those performances, especially having the large audiences, all seated like if it is in Carnegie Hall. I became literate and numerate in the Catholic church so I feel that I must give back. I have also been doing this in churches in New York. The priests would invite me to bring people to the church on Sundays."
With a chuckle he added: "Despite this I never wanted to join the priesthood."
Superior has been married to Dr Janet Stanley for the past 40 years and they have one son, Moriba, and two granddaughters. Moriba, a musician, lives in California.
Ten years ago, when Superior celebrated 50 years in the business, he was lauded by the International Music Council and the Ford Foundation, affiliates of the UN, at a symposium held in Brasil on Calypso and Social Justice: Preserving the Legacy. At this symposium Superior was deemed "the greatest calypsonian ever," especially for his history-making Brass Crown calypso recorded in 1957.
After retiring from calypso competitions, Superior has kept himself in the belly of the artform in many ways. He created the Vintage Kaiso Brigade in 2006, as well as the annually held Corporate Calypso Monarch competition, formed his band Reflections and performs regularly at home and abroad. In 2012 he performed with International Soca Monarch and Road March champion Machel Montano at Machel Monday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, with the likes of Pitbull, performing a duet with Montano of his Trinidad Carnival.
In 2012, Superior's career hit another high point when he was invited by US President Barack Obama to be a guest at the Commander-in-Chief Ball, held at the Walter E Washington Convention Centre Ballroom, in New York. This was possible due to Superior's poignant calypso of 2008 Black Coffee, a composition which hailed the ascendancy of America electing its first ever black president.
He ended: "I feel well satisfied with myself. I've made my VAT payments and paid my taxes. I have no medical or physical challenges; I am fulfilled and I thank God for that."
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