Roaring Lion (born Rafael de Leon, Aroquita, Trinidad, British Trinidad and Tobago, February 22, 1908; died July 11, 1999) was one of the greatest calypsonians (calypso singer/composers) of the 20th century. His 65-year career began in the early 1930s and he is best known for his compositions “Ugly Woman” (1933), “Mary Ann” and “Netty, Netty,” which are still performed today.
From a young age, Roaring Lion (de Leon’s adopted stage name) became known for his skill in creating calypsos (particularly in his ability to extemporize lyrics on any subject). Contrary to his humble origins, he cultivated a refined stage persona and always appeared sharply dressed. His career officially began in 1924. He recorded extensively between the 1930s and 1950s, and was one of the calypsonians who deserves the most credit for the increasing international popularity of the genre during this period. In March 1934 the Trinidadian phonograph merchant Eduardo Sa Gomes sent Roaring Lion and Attila The Hun to New York to record; they became the first calypsonians to record abroad.
Roaring Lion achieved fame for his linguistic prowess as much as for his catchy tunes. His lyrics, delivered in rapid-fire style, show an impeccable command of the English language (as well as Trinidadian slang), and are replete with witty turns of phrase, humorous metaphors, and clever alliterations and internal rhymes.
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