Kaiso No 13 - December 3, 1998

While I don't have detailed reports, I am told that the Lord Melody tributes went off well in New York and that both shows there were sold out.  In calling New York I learned from Conqueror of the death last week of Lord Observer.  I had tried to see Observer when I was in Brooklyn in September but was informed he had been hospitalized after another series of debilitating strokes and I was unable to visit him.  I had talked to him briefly on the phone a few years ago and he appeared to be a gentle soul whose calypso career has not been well documented.

Lord Observer (Lennox Clarke), died November, 1998
Active in the tents in Port 0f Spain in the 60s when he also served as president of the Calypsonian Association and edited annual lyric booklets in '66 and '67 until he moved to New York City in the late '60s, continued to perform there for many years.  His father, Laurence Felix who played bass and was a band leader for the Papa Felix Cotton Club Band.  He and his brothers grew up involved in music but considered it just a pastime.  Observer worked as a laborer and then as a tailor, eventually opening his own shop before he became a full time entertainer.  Started singing calypso in the late '50s urged on by Tiger, who was his mentor.  Appeared in 1959 at the Young Brigade at the Waldorf Club, at Park St.  He did Untidy Taxi in 1961.  In 1962 he returned with Too Much Strike in Trinidad and Race Pool.  Issued a single on Cook Caribbean, Lord Observer, Goodbye / Ring the National Guard, which were his songs for '63 at the Independence Brigade Tent.  In 1964, he was at the Roving Tent with Don't Go and Flora.  In '66, sang Rhodesia Crisis at the Calypso Theatre.  In 1967 did Ban on Nuclear Weapons at the Calypso Theatre.

That appears to be his last year in the tent as he and his partner Young Killer both started appearing at hotels throughout the Caribbean and in the United States.  Observer moved initially to Jamaica performing there for a period of time before moving to New York City permanently.  He appeared at Expo 67 in a film called The Calypso Traveler.  He performed regularly around New York City after moving there at hotels, country clubs, colleges, and dining rooms with his Revue which featured steel drums, a limbo dancer and a fire eater.  Observer was often a guest on the Joe Franklin Show and on WLIB radio.  In 1974, he made a singing commercial for Clairol shampoo with Geoffrey Holder.  In the late '70s he even had his own Lord Observer Variety Show on New York Cable TV.  He recorded at least one single in New York, a tribute to his new home, New York City - Urban Beauty / Weatherman on Rosie.   Issued a cassette album in 1990, New York Joe, with disco, R&B and reggae as well as calypso.  Organized a benefit for Tiger in New York City in 1992.  Suffered a stroke in 1994 that impeded his activities after that date until his death.

I have been unable so far to find a copy of the Cook-Caribbean single he reported recording.  In fact, many Cook-Caribbean singles issued in the late '50s and early '60s have not survived it seems.  Observer had also mentioned recording in Jamaica but I have no details to go on.  The lyrics to only a few of his early calypsos survive.  Here is his 1967 commentary on nuclear weapons.

Observer - Ban Nuclear Weapons

Too much war aggression
Under develop countries
Poverty and starvation
Fighting to keep they sovereignty
The cold war in Berlin
Ban the Nuclear testing
What they tells we bout peace and unity
When they lookin for war daily.

Mr United Nation Secretary
What is the destiny of humanity
The United States and Russia
Was spending billions of dollars
And people dying for hunger in India
Tell them find a cure for cancer
Or eradicate the world slum area
I'm appealing to the United Nations
Ban all Nuclear weapons.

The Crises in Cuba
Vietnam and Korea
Ian Smith in Rhodesia
Fighting to keep power
We want roads and education
But all they studying is nuclear weapons
Move all them bombs from the shelf
Or man is going to destroy himself.

If you check on history
The crimes by Hitler and Mussolini
America drop ah bomb in Japan
Up to now the whole place barren
They talkin bout the arms race
And to put ah man in space
Take way the wealth from them big nations
Let me see them with they nuclear weapons.

Ray Funk

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