Dear Editor: “A sublime yet subtle poet […] who defied conformation”; Ode to Shadow

“He was a sublime yet subtle poet who danced to his own drum, who wove bass lines—allegedly from Hell, but so transportive as to refute that assertion—that underpinned, pulsed through and propelled each call that he made to his beloved people.”

The following Letter to the Editor on the passing of revolutionary calypsonian, Winston “Shadow” Bailey, was submitted to Wired868 by Colin Clarke:

Photo: The late Winston “Shadow” Bailey.

I don’t have the words. The Mighty Shadow, Winston Bailey, now sleeps, perchance to dream.

Of all the Trinidad and Tobago music icons, he was the creative force that I identified with. He was one of my three greatest influences when, as a pre-teen, I taught myself to play the bass. But that doesn’t do full justice to his impact.

He was a sublime yet subtle poet who danced to his own drum, who wove bass lines—allegedly from Hell, but so transportive as to refute that assertion—that underpinned, pulsed through and propelled each call that he made to his beloved people.

Calls that demanded we be accountable for one another, because poverty is hell. Calls that challenged us to investigate what others have claimed was our history, because Columbus lied. Calls that we don’t sink dat soca boat.

He was my artistic hero in his defiance against the narrow views of competition and fickle commercial tastes, which demanded conformity. And in his resilience against the soul-crushing loss of some of his original master recordings; and as he took a page from Dylan Thomas and raged against the dying of the light in our souls by reminding us to Dingolay.

I am so glad that he lived long enough to see his craft widely appreciated, to enjoy having his legacy celebrated, and to have renewed success in his latter decades.

Photo: Winston “Shadow” Bailey.
(Copyright Islandmix)

His often oblique lyrics, unique vocal style, and signature dance were all expressions of his singular, Puckish, idiosyncratic vision.

He assumed the mantle and moniker of darkness to warn us, to instruct us, to make us laugh at ourselves, and ultimately to affirm the light within us all and help us to see it in each other.

Because he believed in the stars in the dark night.

He believed in the sun in the daylight.

He believed in the little children.

He believed in life and its problems.

My heart is heavy.

I don’t have the words.

Photo: The late iconic calypsonian Winston “Shadow” Bailey.
(Copyright Abigail Hadeed)
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2 comments

  1. Looks like you do…(have words) and I think you left out a few too, or maybe references… because you have tickled us with details that beg for more. Please point us to more with references or write some more. Thank you.

  2. Sorry to puncture your balloon but you do have the words.

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