Known fondly as “ King David,” Soca’s reigning monarch, David Rudder celebrated his 65th birthday on May 6th.That was in fact just four days after his fellow Trinidadian and Caribbean royalty icon: “The Prince of Port-Of-Spain”, Brian Charles Lara had marked his 49th.
Those two celebrations, occurring as closely as they did, caused me to think back with joy to another occasion when the two icons, Rudder and Lara, were performing at their respective bests on the same day at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG). The year was 1994; the occasion the West Indies-England 5th Test Match; the circumstances: Lara en route to breaking Gary Sobers’ thirty-six year record of 365 as Test cricket’s highest individual score; David Rudder present in the front row of the ARG’s Double Decker Stand
What happened on day two of that Test was so superbly magical that it will always be counted amongst my most treasured memories. At the stroke of lunch, when Lara had already notched the second of the three hundreds he would eventually score in the innings and was brilliantly well on his way to the third, a huge thunderstorm passed over and the rain started to fall as if there was no tomorrow.
The resumption of play was delayed for more than an hour, but in that time frame, as a means of easing the frustrations of the buoyant Double Decker Stand fans, David Rudder instructed Chickie, the resident deejay, to play only the tracks of his greatest hits. He, Rudder, then started singing above the tracks in an impromptu live performance that will undoubtedly rank as one of the most enjoyable all those who were in the Double Decker Stand that day would ever have experienced at any time in their respective pasts or futures. Having been one of those so fortunate to have been present to savor the experience, I can attest to the immovable impression it created on myself and others.
Among those present with me, as part of our own Double Decker Lower Stand Back Row Posse, were the annual Pilgrims to West Indies Test matches hosted at the ARG. These included the Jamaican gang led by former West Indies CEO Chris Dehring and his main sidekick Gregory Maine, then LIAT pilots Christopher Cameron and Jan Griffith, my Antiguan host and good friend Foster Derrick and other members of his family and a bunch of other regulars whose names have long since been forgotten.
Rudder’s impromptu performance was so captivating and electrifying that everyone in the entire stand was on their feet dancing and singing along to his renditions of Bahia Girl, The Hammer, Madness and the undisputable favorite, given Lara’s batting exploits, “Dust In Dey Face!” When the rain eventually stopped and play was resumed there was almost, briefly, a feeling of sadness that the magical musical interlude had come to an end.
The presence of that sadness didn’t last for long however, as on the field Lara was quickly back to his majestic best. Stroking one boundary after another as he marched towards 300 plus by the day’s close of play.
If ever there was a performance by David Rudder that captured his essence, as one of the greatest artistes the Caribbean has ever produced, that was it! The ability to seize the opportunity to freely share his unique talents to a captive and appreciative audience.
There was another memorable occasion, again in Antigua, when I was fortunate enough to witness first hand his grassroots, no airs or graces, Caribbean personality. He’d been hired as the feature performer for yet another outdoor Antigua Test Match season event. The stage upon which he was performing was only partially covered, but sufficiently so as to allow full shelter for himself and the band. There was however, absolutely no such shelter for the front of stage attendees who were jam packed on the “dancefloor,” as Rudder began his performance.
Needless to say the rain began to fall and in typical Caribbean fashion all man Jack were sent scattering to find whatever cover they could. Faced with an almost instantaneously vanished audience, Rudder strode out from under the stage shelter, stood in the pouring rain and continued to perform, as he enquired of his audience. “Alyuh frighten lil rain?”
Within moments, all those who had previously sought shelter were back out in the rain, adhering fully to Rudder’s gloriously set example. Then followed arguably one of the best rain concerts likely ever performed in the Caribbean.
That’s the man that is David Rudder and the personality that has made him become beloved by hundreds of thousands of his subjects throughout the Caribbean and beyond. To witness David Rudder performing at his best is to fully experience the ultimate in audience captivation.
King David will be celebrating his 65th Birthday at a special Rudder 6.5 concert on June 9 at the Sony Performing Center. For all lovers of the very best in Caribbean music, it’s an occasion that shouldn’t be missed!