“Thirty plus years is not 30 days!”
And this is true for calypsonian and entertainer, John King, who at the end of this year, will be making his exit stage left, and putting down the microphone.
“I am definitely going to stop performing at the end of the year. That is it for me,” he told Bajan Vibes on the sidelines of his performance with the tent he manages – The First Citizens Digicel Big Show at the Sea Rocks Dome.
But this man, who first came to the stage, fresh from the Lodge School as Johnny Ma Boy was quick to point out to Bajan Vibes that, contrary to belief, he is by no means saying a permanent farewell to the industry. In fact, he is looking to become more involved the other side of the business
“ . . . Producing shows . . . I really want to get more involved in molding some of the younger entertainers and actually, being in a position where, at some point in time, I might be able to help shape policy. One of the things that I lament all the time is that the Caribbean is missing out on the business opportunities of entertainment. We are not just talking Calypso and Reggae music but we talking from fashion to film to even what you guys [in the media] do, producing documentaries and that sorta stuff.
“Everyone, especially when you look at North American and Europe, these guys make endless money off these things because we are the consumers and I am saying then that if we can be the consumers at one end, we must be the producers also, so that other people want to hear our stories, [they] want to see what we are doing; [they] want to understand a bit more about who we are,” he said passionately.
It was this passion, maybe from all accounts his fresh school boy face and as they say, very little in his arsenal that John, who would have been 50 years of age back in May of this year, emerged onto the Calypso scene. His stage name Johnny ma Boy and, from all accounts carrying with him what many says was and still is an exceptional voice.
Among his memorable exploits; when he went to the National Stadium in the 1983 monarch finals with Black Box about the country’s budget and the belt-tightening that was called for by the Minister of Finance that year. He was second runner for the 1985 Calypso Monarch with I Want a Plantation and Queuing, and in 1988, when he was a serious contender with Living a Lie and Family Ties; only to be runner up, beaten out by Rita (Forester), who was monarch singing two of King’s own compositions. There was also 1994, when King declared I’m Back and had his soca hit, Jump and Wave which went on to win the 1994 calypso monarchy.
“When I started in 1982, I never dreamt that I would have achieved the things that I achieved, would have performed the places I had the opportunities to go and perform, would have shared the stage with some of the greatest artiste ever and also to get the kinda love that I have gotten for so many years.
“Often times you see people in their careers get a hit today and a hit tomorrow and then ‘boom’ yuh doan hear bout them . . . Not very many artiste anywhere in the world last 30 years so I would like to say thank you very much and I think when it comes to the end there are other things that I want to do and I think that I can give back more off stage than on-stage,” John said.
“[Plus too,] I have been having real difficulties with my voice since 2007. It really got so bad two years ago that I had to stop performing on the hotel circuit and stuff altogether. When that came along, I said to myself, if I am gonna do this I have to be prepared to go all the way. Do everything. I have had for 30 plus years some very loyal fans and you know yuh fans; you can’t always express in words what you would like to say.”
And it appears it is with his fans in mind, that he is making this year count, with his two songs for this year’s Pic o de Crop competition, the social commentary Mr. AG in which he is telling the Attorney General there is too much crime and violence in Barbados and now is the time for him [government] to be “strong like a lion” and take serious action to address the problem.
His second song, Pure Magic in which he is joined on stage by one of the island’s top pannist, Terry Mexican Arthur, speaks to the sweet rhythms of the Steelpan and how it has been accepted into the Barbadian musical landscape.
“It is nice to say thank you and give a big lot of speeches and all of that. I think the best way to show people how you appreciate them is to share your God given talents with them at the highest level possible and that is what I am doing for the Swan Song,” he told Bajan Vibes in parting.