The soca and calypso scene in Barbados is a vibrant one and anyone with a smattering of knowledge of the genre there will have heard of The Mighty Gabby, one of the island’s most accomplished and celebrated performers.
Gabby is renowned in calypso circles for his sarcastic lyrics and cutting wit. He is an old-school calypsonian, preferring to sing about social issues and injustice and holding authority to account in parody.
He is one of the most creative melody makers collaborating with regional arrangers including the likes of Frankie McIntosh, Eddy Grant, Andy Williams, Nicholas Brancker, Mike Sealy and the late “Patches” Mendoza. This crafty lyricist readily strikes out at politicians who have failed miserably in muting his often-hilarious songs.
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Gabby’s prodigious body of work over a long career includes over 700 songs. He was the youngest calypsonian to win the calypso crown in Barbados at only 19 back in 1968.
Anthony Feteiit Carter was born 30 March 1948 in Emmerton. Carter was given the nickname "Gabby" as a child, and first had success as a calypsonian in 1968, when his ‘Heart Transplant’ won him the title of Barbados Calypso Monarch. He won the title again in 1969 with ‘Family Planning’. Rather than build on this success, he concentrated on acting for the next few years, joining the Barbados Theatre Workshop and composing much of the music for its play Under the Duppy Parasol, which had a successful run in New York.
Gabby's talents are not just restricted to calypso as in 2005, he starred in the award-winning documentary 500 Years Later, starring Maulana Karenga.
He returned to music, and carnival success. In 1976, his ‘Licks Like Fire’ gave him the first of a string of victories at Crop Over. He was awarded the Folk Singer of the Year for three successive years from 1977 for ‘Riots in the Land’, ‘Bridgetown’, and ‘Bajan Fisherman’. In 1979, he won the Crop Over Road March title with ‘Burn Mr Harding’, and went on to tour Cuba.
Gabby courted controversy in 1985 with ‘Cadavers’, a commentary on the Barbados government's decision to allow dead bodies from the US to be stored on the island. He was sued by the government, but Prime Minister Tom Adams died before the case came to court, and the plan was subsequently shelved. He continued to produce controversial material, including ‘The List’, which dealt with AIDS, ‘Jack’ which criticised the local tourist industry for giving preferential treatment to foreign visitors, and ‘Boots’, an attack on the government's assistance in the US invasion of Grenada.
He won the Calypso Monarch title for a third time in 1985 with ‘West Indian Politician’.
In the late 1980s Gabby began an association with singer and producer Eddy Grant, who owned the Blue Wave studio, helping Gabby to break through to a wider audience.
In 2004, he was named Cultural Ambassador of Barbados.
In 2005, he received the 2005 Clement Payne National Hero Award and was also awarded the Living Legend Award at the inaugural Barbados Music Awards in 2006. He is a vocal Pan-Africanist.
He won the Calypso Monarch title on four more occasions, in 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2010.
In 2012 Gabby was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letter degree by the University of the West Indies.
As he approaches his 70th birthday, Gabby has not slowed down, which is just as well for his legion of fans who continue to lap up his cutting-edge output.
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