Lord Invader, Calypso in New York

Alex Abramovich

By Alex Abramovich

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Calypso’s consummate professional.

Lord Invader (aka Rupert Westmore Grant, born in Port of Spain in 1914), who spent long stretches abroad and tailored many of his best songs to the concerns of West Indian expats, also had immense potential as a crossover artist. His "Rum and Coca Cola" was covered by the Andrews Sisters in 1945 and sold four million records. (Invader sued, and won $150,000 in royalties, but lost his rights to the composition.) In 1946, he began recording for Moe Asch's Folkways Records, which presented him, misleadingly, as a rough-hewn, avuncular folk artist. In fact, like his labelmate Lead Belly, Invader was a consummate professional, and — for his day — a surprisingly candid lyricist. "Some passing you empty/ And yet they won't stop" he sang (on "New York, Subway"). "I had money but I had to roam/ I couldn't get a cab to drop me back home." Like the best calypsonians, Invader (who died in 1961) had a way of smiling through clenched teeth.