National Carnival Commission (NCC) Chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters was born on October 20, 1952 in the picturesque coastal community of Mayaro.
On Wednesday he spent his 69th birthday there, and focused on planting his favourite crops in his garden, including mangoes, avocadoes and watermelons. During his many feature addresses at various cultural events, Gypsy has always reminded people about his childhood and humble beginnings spent fishing and catching crabs. In fact, he often says, “Calypso rescued me from a life of catching crabs and picking up bottles for a living.”
Gypsy has always appreciated the value of a dollar earned.
In the 1970s when he toured the Caribbean, US and England with fellow calypsonians, he would see how most of them recklessly spent their earnings on women and rum. He, however, saved his money and invested in various small businesses.
During Gypsy’s political career, he was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Mayaro.
In a brief phone interview on his birthday, Gypsy said: “I am at my home in Mayaro. Happy to be in Mayaro. I was in Chaguanas. I just drove up. A cousin popped by to see me.
“I am not one given to too much celebration for birthdays and anniversaries. I plan to work in my garden. Then I will get some rest.”
Peters added: “I got at least 300 phone calls. I can’t even check the WhatsApp. There has been an avalanche of birthday greetings. I appreciate the love.”
‘Yesterday’s Children ‘
Peters also said if the radio stations opted to dedicate a song to him, his choice would be “Yesterday’s Children”.
He said: “It’s a song I dedicated to my grandmother Alma Kelly. ‘Yesterday’s Children’ is about appreciating and respecting the elderly... the seniors. They have worked hard to build their families and the nation. Remember soon, ‘We will be yesterday’s children too’.”
Asked what advice Kelly imparted to him, Gypsy said:
“Ma taught me life lessons including work hard and not depending upon anybody for anything. She taught me the importance of cleaning up the house. She would make me carry out the chamber pot. She would tell me don’t make any woman make style on me.”
Among those who extended birthday greetings were chief executive officer of NCC, Colin Lucas, who said: “I wish him happiness on his 69th birthday. I wish him success so he can continue making a dynamic contribution to culture and nation building. I wish him good health.”
At his New York home on Monday, iconic calypsonian Slinger Francisco (Mighty Sparrow) said: “He is a good boy. He has a good heart. I wish him Happy Birthday. May he live to see many more.”
Public relations officer of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO) Sherma Orr-Watkins said: “We called Gypsy and wished him Happy Birthday and God’s choicest blessings.
“We are celebrating Calypso History Month and looking forward to producing a fantastic 2022 Carnival. We are committed to working with him. We thank Gypsy for his contribution to the art form and culture.”
Gypsy, a former US marine, became a household name after he won the Calypso Monarch title in 1997 with classics “Little Black Boy” and “Rhythm of the Nation.”
After enjoying tremendous success as an artiste, he was elected to the House of Representatives in 2000, becoming the second calypsonian in history to be elected to public office.
He was re-elected in 2001.
Peters served as Minister of Community Development in the People’s Partnership Coalition led by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. He also served as Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism from 27 May 2010 to 22 June 2012.
Another famous calypso from Gypy’s repertoire is “Sinking Ship” which criticised the leadership skills of the late prime minister George Chambers.
To compound it, Gypsy can burst into extempo and bring any topic to life at the drop of a hat.
He has won the National Extempo title on more than seven occasions, competing against artistes including Black Sage, Lady Africa, Brian London and the visually impaired Lingo.