Lord Nelson Biography

Like many calypsonians from Tobago, Lord Nelson (born Robert Nelson) had to seek his fame and fortune in America. And he found it -- although not in the U.S., but back home, where he remains one of the acknowledged stars of soca, the mix of soul and calypso that has been the island's musical mainstay since the mid-'70s. Born and raised in Tobago, Nelson left his homeland after graduating high school, hoping for a better life in Brooklyn. However, he'd hardly had a chance to unpack before he was drafted and sent off with the U.S. forces to Korea, which was where he first showed his talents as a singer and comedian, performing in Army shows. Later, back on American shores, he began singing with West Indian steel bands in Brooklyn, mostly covering calypso hits in his unique fashion, which went over strongly with the Caribbean community. Still, he never considered writing his own material until he became friendly with another calypsonian, Mighty Duke, who mentored him. Nelson's own style took from calypso, but also from the American music he heard every day, adding more than an ounce of funk to the proceedings on songs like "La La" and "King Liar," which became Caribbean hits. While not the first to make soca music, he found a great deal of popularity, to the extent that in 1989 he won the title of Uncrowned King in a competition for off-island artists at Trinidad's annual Carnival. In 1990 he signed with Shanachie, which ensured good distribution for his music -- certainly more than his brethren in the West Indies -- and he was able to go global with his sound, even if he had become part of the digital sound rather than relying on 'real' instruments; his label debut, When the World Turns Around, offered a digital remake of his earlier album Love You Forever, which had originally appeared on the tiny Joker label. The uncle of another young soca/rapso artist, Mojah, Nelson continues to record and perform. ~ Chris Nickson, Rovi


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