Monday, April 15, 2013

Lord Invader, Rum & Coca-Cola

Sometimes there's a story that connects so many dots
and resonates so curiously across the decades that it's
almost scary.

This one connects Trinidad and Harlem, the Dick
van Dyke Show with Mose Asch and Pete Seeger,
America's leading soft drink and Leonard Cohen...

It's a story of a song, in the popular form from
a small Caribbean island that became one of the
biggest hits of the decade. It's a saga of intellectual
property and a quest for justice.

It's the tale of a soca song called Rum and Coca-Cola,
and a man they called Lord Invader, who walked tall
in Trinidad and Harlem as a master of soca, and as
a man wronged, who fought back and got lucky...

      "Since the Yankees came to Trinidad

      They have the young girls goin' mad.

      The young girls say they treat 'em nice

      And they give them a better price.

Lord Invader wrote Rum and Coca-Cola  was about
life in Trinidad during an invasion by American
soldiers during World War 2. One of those invaders
took the song home, and proceeded to flog the song
as his own.

Along the way, he deleted most of the social commentary
but the song would still be banned by some stations
because it mentioned an alcoholic beverage.

It found its way to The Andrews Sisters, who sang it
without appreciating the references to prostitution
and imperialism... they just needed a song, and
they liked the beat.

Good instincts- the song would be one of their biggest
hits, spending 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard chart.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were at stake when
the case came to trial...and the case turned on a little
booklet of lyrics,k created to sell at the merch table
in the club where Lord Invader and his peers performed.

      They buy rum and Coca-Cola,

      Go down Point Cumana.

     Both mother and daughter

    Workin' for the Yankee dollar.*"

People's Songs

There is a remarkable site where you can read
the whole story of Calypso on Trial. It's one of
those sites created by someone on a mission
from God to tell a big story well, and it left me
wishing that there were more places where one
could find the stories of more songs...

You can hear Lord Invader talk about calypso
and how he came to write the song - as well
as his version - right here!

* this is a line Leonard Cohen would quote over the years...

- 30 -


1 comment:

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