SONG: London is the Place for Me
ARTIST: Lord Kitchener
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There is not a lot of information on the writing of the song, except that it was written by Adwyn “Lord Kitchener” Roberts in 1948 and recorded for the first time by him in 1951.
Aldwyn Roberts AKA Lord Kitchener was born in Arima, Trinidad and Tobago on April 18, 1922. He learned to play guitar as a teenager and started to grow a following locally. He moved to the country’s capital, Port of Spain in 1943 and was known as an innovator for changing lyrics and arrangements to songs, often criticizing the British occupation of the island, and when US soldiers came to the island in WWII his calypso sound led him to gigs in New York. He toured Jamaica and in 1948 made his way to London, UK where he performed the specially written London is the Place for Me live on television. His popularity continued to grow in the UK through to the 1950s, as the voice of the West Indian diaspora in England. He performed on the BBC regularly, opened a nightclub in Manchester and had a successful residency in London.
In 1962 he returned to Trinidad and continued to write and release music, as well as mentored young calypso artists. By the time the 1970s rolled around, soca – an offshoot of calypso – became more prevalent and Lord Kitchener released a few albums with that style. He continued recording, playing and tutoring until his bone marrow cancer diagnosis in 1999, and he passed in February 2000.
The first two of the verses were first recorded on camera for reporters on Tilbury Docks.
The name Lord Kitchener was given to Roberts by fellow calypso singer Growling Tiger.
This song was quite different from what I was expecting when I first read that it was calypso – I was expecting more of a Harry Belafonte-esque Jamaica Farewell kind of song, but this one totally reminds me of dixieland! Which isn’t a complaint, I love dixieland music, especially with the fun clarinet noodling through the song. I know that there are a lot of Caribbean influences in New Orleans culture, so maybe that speaks to the sound of this song. I like Lord Kitchener’s singing, but I think I have a soft spot for a Caribbean accent. Anyway, this song isn’t groundbreaking or profound or anything, but it’s a cool example of mid 20th century West Indies music and a fun little bop!
Another song I’d never heard before! This sounds like such a jam! Weirdly out of time background singers, trading little solo bits between the nice, dark clarinet, and the warm tenor sax. I like Lord Kitchener’s voice, and the inflections when he sings, and the cheeky opening and closing with the Big Ben sounds on piano. I love the very chill vibe of this song, and the fact that it just sounds like a bunch of friends making music together for fun. This is a great find!
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
By D Lime for the 2014 Paddington movie:
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: