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Eulogy for Fitzgerald Henry aka 'Mighty Terror'

Alvin C. Daniell delivers a touching eulogy
Alvin C. Daniell delivers a touching eulogy

By Alvin C. Daniell
Event Date: March 19, 2007
Posted: March 21, 2007

The late, great Fitzgerald 'Mighty Terror' Henry 
The late, great Fitzgerald 'Mighty Terror' Henry 
Fitzgerald Cornelius Henry was born on January 13, 1920. More importantly, blessed with a rich baritone voice, the creativity to compose and an imposing stage presence, he was born to sing Calypso. His father was a policeman, his mother a teacher and from early while attending Arouca Government School and Picadilly Street E C School he sang in church and school choirs. During his formative years he also played the trumpet.

His Calypso career began in 1947 when he sang Negroes know thyself, his first composition.

Negro people all must unite
Step out from the darkness and come to light..

The following year, the late Aldwyn Roberts, who we fondly remember as Kitchener, introduced him to Doug Hadden of the Calypso Palace Tent, where he began his professional career. The name Terror, which he adopted as his sobriquet, was given to him by a government bailor, Reynold Wilkinson. Many prefer to call Terror the Golden Voice, which he said, came from the numerous public comments about the quality of his voice.

As a child I was fascinated by two of his early songs, Chinese Children and Little Monkey. By his own admission these were creative imaginations, the hallmark of a gifted Calypsonian. Chinese Children earned him the Calypso King Title and the unofficial road march of 1950.

Ah black like jet and she just like tar baby
Still, Chinese children calling me daddy

In 1951, he again took the road march with Tiny Tiny Blow yuh trumpet for me. For the records he sang Little Monkey in 1952 before leaving for England the following year. There he teamed up with Kitchener in a four piece band with Kitch on the Upright Bass and Terror on the Drums. Singing Calypso in England was a different cup of tea, as his diction had to be perfect and his English refined. He even sang ballads until the popularity of Calypso increased. He boasted that he won the Calypso King title in 1957 at the Chelsea Town Hall. He was always sure to remind you that since he never had cause to defend his title, he was still the Calypso King of Britain.

He returned to Trinidad in 1964 with a bang and competed in the 1965 Calypso competition. Pan Talent was an instant hit.

Doh Ray Me Fah Sol La Te Doh
Pan Playing Music anywhere yuh go

He recalled that it came to him in a dream, a melody going up and down the scale. Luckily he got out of bed and recorded it on his reel to reel recorder for by morning he had forgotten the tune, but the recorder had it in its memory.

His second song Callaloo Tonic  was the people's favourite that year, but in a ploy to embarrass Sniper who sang the immortal Portrait of Trinidad and More Production which had a suggestive slant, he changed to Keep Calypso Clean.

We can make songs much cleaner
And we can still be jocular
Forever and ever
Children growing day by day 
Repeating everything we say
So let's keep calypsos the clean way...

It is now history that Sniper won the crown and Terror tied for second with the Mighty Bomber. The following year he produced a double barrelled combination, Last Year's Happiness & Steelband Jamboree. He was a winner from the first night at Sparrow's Young Brigade Tent when he declared:

I enjoy mehself last year
That's the reason why I come back down here...

Pan Trinbago paid tribute to Terror at the Second World Steelband Festival when these two tunes along with Pan Talent were selected as test pieces. He was also honoured by the Pan Ramajay committee which led to him composing Tribute to Pan Ramajay in 1992.

In fact Terror had a fetish for composing tunes for the pan as evidenced by his many compositions in that vein, such as Pan Talent, Steelband Jamboree, Pan in Tune, Sugar for Pan, A Tribute to Solo Harmonites and Chinee Panorama. Clive Bradley did a memorable arrangement of Sugar for Pan for Pandemonium which took them to the finals of Panorama in 1986.

I could go on and on detailing the variety of compositions he produced; some humorous, some spicy, many informative and always melodious and entertaining. He never compromised in singing what he considered was authentic calypso.

But I want to focus now on the man Fitzgerald Henry for I was fortunate to know someone who I could call a gentleman. He had a witty sense of humour. I remember him calling me at home and pretending to be George Bush. He loved to call the radio stations and subtly chastise them for forgetting to play his music. He had a strong infectious laugh and I always felt at ease chatting with him. In the style of the traditional calypsonians of the golden era of the forties and fifties, he was always dressed immaculately in full suit with matching fedora, happy to simply strut down the aisle of a tent selling his calypso magazines.

His proudest moments include his visit to Dakar, Senegal to represent Trinidad in the first World Festival of Arts. At functions he proudly displayed his Hummingbird Medal which he received in 1985. He also felt honoured to receive a Sunshine Award in 1991. In 2004 COTT awarded him the Golden Achievement Award, a fitting accolade for a foundation member of the organization.

Despite his failing health, he was able to feature in two documentaries Calypso Dreams and Calypso @ Dirty Jim's. As fate would have it he opens and closes the Calypso Dreams film, as if to seal the book on a generation of quality calypso bards that include Growling Tiger, Kitchener, Pretender, Blakie and Spoiler.   

I remember when someone once remarked that he looked so good for his age and contented, he simply replied, "When you are comfortable, and you do the things that please people in the sight of God, you do not have to look back in the road, although you can't please everybody. That is the formula for progress and looking good."

On behalf of the Copyright Music Organisation of Trinidad & Tobago and personally on behalf of my wife and I, I wish to convey my sympathies to his wife, children and other family members.

Fitzgerald Cornelius Henry, the Mighty Terror, the Golden Voice will be missed but his music will live on.

May he rest in peace.

The Mighty Terror is Remembered Reporters : March 21, 2007

Interviews at Mighty Terror's Funeral
By Reporters : Recorded on March 19, 2007

Mighty Terror is Remembered in pictures: