The Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco) made a supreme effort to be on his feet when he performed "Congoman" at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) on Sunday night.
Supported by reigning Calypso Monarch Kurt Allen, Dwayne O'Connor and Kwesi Jeffers, the Calypso King of the World got up from his chair to sing on the final of the two-night tribute titled "Celebrating Our Calypso Monarchs 1939-1980— T&T's History through the eyes of Calypso".
His first song of the evening, "Slave" he sang seated in a chair as he had his for entire performance the previous night.
On Saturday evening Sparrow had been brought on stage in a wheelchair and transferred to a chair from which he performed, sitting throughout his presentation.
Members of the audience had seemed visibly shaken up over Sparrow's ill health. Many fans yesterday expressed their sadness with online comments at trinidadexpress.com. Some even offered medical advice.
Sparrow suffers from diabetes and he has been experiencing pain in his legs for some weeks now. He did a series of medical tests before coming to Trinidad for the NAPA show from New York, USA, where he lives and is expected to receive results when he returns to New York. He left for home yesterday.
After the NAPA incident a rumour began to circulate that Sparrow was in financial difficulties and forced to continue performing because of this. A close friend of Sparrow's, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Express yesterday the calypsonian is in no financial difficulties nor is he as seriously ill as people believe.
"In all honesty, Sparrow has been gainfully employed for many years and continues to be so. He is also not as seriously ill as is being said now. He has been having pains in his legs and had medical tests done right before coming here for the show.
"He will receive those results when he returns to the States and treatment will begin. The doctors instructed him to stay off his feet as much as possible and that is why he was seated on stage," the friend said.
The producers of the show also did not insist that Sparrow still perform when they realised he would not have been able to stand and move around on stage. When they told him he need not perform if he was unwell, Sparrow insisted that he was well enough to take the stage and sing because he would not disappoint his fans.
"It is wrong for anyone to blame the people at NAPA for Sparrow being on a chair while singing because it was he who insisted that he will perform. He said he was there for his fans.
"Sparrow continues to do a lot of work because people want to see him. I think it is time for him to slow down, but he wants to perform. As far as I know, he intends to fulfill all the upcoming engagements he has. He was great on Sunday night," the friend said.
Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism, Winston 'Gypsy" Peters, said yesterday although he has no knowledge that the Mighty Sparrow is in financial difficulty, he will receive from the ministry whatever he needs, especially in meeting his medical expenses, should he or anyone connected to him approach the Government.
"I have never heard anything about Sparrow having financial problems, but the Government stands ready to assist in any way, should the need ever arise. Sparrow is a true icon and has throughout his life contributed tremendously to this country and the calypso art form. There will be no hesitation to come to his aid and I believe no one will dispute that Sparrow deserves whatever we can give to him," Peters said.
President of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation, Lutalo Masimba, also said he was unaware that Sparrow has financial problems, but TUCO will not hesitate to come to his assistance if need be. Masimba said Sparrow on Sunday delivered a sterling performance.