When Dr. Alston ‘Becket’ Cyrus was conferred his honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of the West Indies at the graduation ceremony at the Five Islands campus in Antigua and Barbuda, congratulations came from every corner of the world.
Timothy Watkins, better known as Baron, also sent commendations the ABC of calypso’s way, while they were a few words, they were filled with lots of love and appreciation for Dr. Cyrus.
‘Congratulations to Dr. Alston Cyrus Becket the ABC of Calypso, a quiet gentleman always greet me with a smile he is ah brother to me and when he grace the Stage he is ah giant keep up the great works and thanks for the love,’ Baron said.
The congratulations did not end there, as our very own Shaunelle Mckenzie also showed her appreciation for Becket, while sending congratulations his way, even sharing with us some of her favourite tracks of his.
‘Huge Huge congratulations to the ABC of Calypso. I have known Becket for more than 20 years. I have done back vocals on a number of his tracks. One of my favorite for him being “Don’t look down on a man unless you’re picking him up” which I find to be profound advice.’ Mckenzie said.
She expressed appreciation to Dr. Cyrus for all the things she had learned from him throughout the years, while giving him props for clever songwriting skills over the course of his career. She stated that it is a dream of hers to collaborate on a song the ABC of Calypso, a dream that she hopes can be realised in the not too distant future.
‘This giant of an artiste is someone I have a great deal of respect for. His teachings through music are emphatically one of the best throughout the entire region. The double entendre in his writing is so perfectly hidden that even as a practitioner in the art form, it took me well into adulthood to understand what some of his lyrics meant. The double meaning that is. Case in point, “Nanny”. Rehearsing for a show that both Becket and I were on, he started rehearsing the song “Nanny”. As I stood there listening to the maestro rehearse my mouth dropped. I broke down laughing because I just got it.
His writing skills are impeccable and not to be compared to any other. I have a dream to do a collaboration with Dr Cyrus one day. Hopefully not too far from now. Congratulations again Dr Alston “Becket” Cyrus.’ she said.
The next round of congratulations from a fellow recipient of an honorary Doctor of Letters, none other than Dr. Franklyn ‘Frankie’ McIntosh. McIntosh takes us on a trip back to his first musical meeting with Becket back in the 70s, giving insight into what that historic encounter was like.
‘My first musical association with Alston “Becket” Cyrus was in the mid 1970’s. He had been booked to perform on a New York boat ride along with several other singers, but rehearsal did not go well. The backing band complained of inaccuracies in his musical scores, and recommended that they be re-written. Two days prior to the show, a young Becket appeared at my door and lamented his plight. It was our first meeting to my memory.
I made the necessary corrections to the music and fortunately, his performance was well received by both band and audience. A few days later he returned to my house to discuss a recording project, one which he intended to finance himself.
I was impressed then (as now) with his “Do for self” approach. While most other singers were shopping for producers, Becket was saving his hard-earned pennies to record his own music. The first song he presented was “Coming High”. I was taken by the folk-like quality of the melody, but because it was only four measures long (without repeats) and basic in harmonic structure (major chords built on 1, 4 and 5 scale degrees) I exceeded the normal role of arranger and composed instrumental interludes, bridges and solo sections which , if extracted from the final product, could serve as pieces on their own.’ Dr. McIntosh said.
He goes on to tell us about just how impressed Casablanca Records were with ‘Coming High’, so impressed in fact that led to them producing an entire album under the same name. Dr. McIntosh then goes on to let us in how Becket’s song made it onto the soundtrack of the movie ‘The Deep’
‘Casablanca Records (which at the time had Kiss and Donna Summer on its label) were so impressed with “Coming High” that they produced a full album under the same title. I was retained as arranger by Becket and the record company’s representative Buddy Scott. “Calypso Disco”, another track on the album, caught the attention of film composer John Barry, who used excerpts as background music for various scenes in the movie The Deep (also produced by Casablanca). Barry included the entire piece on The Deep soundtrack.’ he said.
Frankie noted that while the deal with Casablanca was short lived, his relationship with Becket has lived on to the current day, working numerous hits together during that time.
‘The Casablanca deal was short-lived; however, my association with Becket is ongoing (in 2022), having produced a steady stream of hits over a period exceeding forty years. (“Wine Down Kingstown”, “Small Pin”, and “Teaser” to name a few).’
Frankie ‘The Maestro’ McIntosh provided a summary of his experiences with the ABC of Calypso over the years, before ultimately culminating his tribute with a heartfelt congratulations for Dr. Alston Becket Cyrus.
‘1. Before arranging Becket’s Coming High album, I was active on the New York scene as a pianist. The impact of that album was so resounding that it a flood of requests for my services as arranger ensued. It was just short of inundating: Crazy, Soso, Rose, Duke, Explainer. Because of Becket, I had been thrust into the spotlight as an arranger, a career I had never intended or even envisioned.
- Becket captures the essence of Vincy culture in a uniquely personal way. What he absorbs is expressed in symbolic form as melodies and lyrics which only a Vincentian could write. But not just any Vincentian – one with ears, mind and soul wide open. One aware and receptive to the nuances of Vincentian life – a process akin to that which produced The Mighty Sparrow in Trinidad and James Brown in the USA.
- To elaborate on my previous allusion to his spirit of independence, Becket writes his own songs; finances their recording, production and manufacturing; has created his own record labels and publishing company. He is a dedicated artist who stays awake till daybreak mailing out samples of new recordings to major record distributors worldwide via the internet, and has recently completed the construction of his own house in his beloved Layou
- Alston Cyrus is to me a loyal and trusted friend, someone to whom my children show the affection of an uncle and my siblings the love of a brother.
- Although Becket’s songs evince influences of The Mighty Sparrow, Kitchener and other Calypso icons, his own work points to new directions, (I am an African”, “Love is the Answer”, and of course “Teaser” serving as examples) – and does so on a musical level which has earned him the well-deserved honor of ‘Doctor of letters’ by the University of the West Indies. We congratulate him.’