After more than half a century of entertaining and educating his many fans across the world, calypsonians Dr Hollis Liverpool, aka the Mighty Chalkdust, is to be honoured by the Sunshine Awards for his contributions to education, the performing arts and humanity.
The presentation on behalf of the Sunshine Awards Organisation will take place on 14 October in New York. As the Calypso King of the World Mighty Sparrow said, “This tribute for my brother Chalkie is long overdue.”
Liverpool was born in Chaguaramas on 5 March 1941 and grew up in Belmont, Trinidad. It was while attending St Mary’s College, Port-of-Spain, that he began composing calypsos, way back in 1954. His musical career started in earnest in 1967, but this commitment to the artform cost him his first teaching job.
Undeterred, he went on to gain a Master’s degree in History from the University of the West Indies and a PhD in History and Ethnomusicology from the University of Michigan, USA. He served as Director of Culture in T&T from 1993 to 1999, and developed UWI’s Diploma in Carnival Studies programme and its Masters in Carnival Studies.
His dedication to education is certainly not confined to the classroom or the pages of his many books. Chalkdust is considered one of the artform’s finest lyricists, a fearless social commentator and a perceptive and unforgiving critic of what he sees as negative currents in Trinidad society and in his beloved music. Compositions such as Ah Fraid Karl, Black Inventions, Ram the Magician and Kaiso Sick in de Hospital are just a few of more than 300 calypsos he is said to have recorded. His refusal to compromise on intelligent, meaningful lyrics, allied to a powerful delivery, has brought Chalkdust the calypso crown nine times – mostly recently this year with Learn from Arithmetic.
The maths lesson from that impressive record is that staying true to the music’s roots pays off in the long run.