The death of 80-year-old Professor Emeritus Gordon Lawler on Sunday was met with an outpouring of tributes from many sectors of society who admired his scholarship on West Indian popular culture, particularly calypso music.
Newsday editorial consultant Judy Raymond said in an online tribute:
Singer Gillian Moore wrote, “Farewell to the beautiful Dr. Gordon Lawler. Thank you for your genius, vision, conversations, laughter and heart.
“My deepest condolences to the Rohlehr family. Guys, we have lost a giant.”
Last September, when Rohlehr received the Chaconia Silver Medal for teaching West Indian Literature at UWI, the TT Republic President’s Office congratulated him for his achievements.
“He pioneered the academic study of calypso, tracing its historical development and social relevance,” the president’s office said. “He has researched and authored many groundbreaking publications on the social, historical, linguistic and political currents that underpin the Caribbean reality and is a leading authority on Calypso and Caribbean culture. is believed to be.”
UWI President Paula May Weeks offered her condolences on Monday, recalling the 2022 National Awards for Literature, Culture, History and Education.
In his condolences, Weeks said Lawler designed and taught UWI’s first course in West Indian Literature.
She quoted his national award.
“His belief was that literature had a fundamental role to play in developing a proper self-awareness without undermining the needs of the wider world. The social, historical, linguistic, and political currents that underpin the Caribbean reality.
“He has traced the historical development and social relevance of calypso, exploring issues such as masculinity and gender long before these terms became widespread.”
UWI Professor Emeritus Kenneth Ramchand said in an online tribute, “Shocking and sad. I am shivering. We had a long and influential working relationship in the English literature department.” Ramchand recalled their mutual respect and meshing of different skills.
“He was cool. We had epic conversations in the British corridors about life, literature, calypso, politics and cricket, balancing humor, sarcasm and desperation.
“His family, his friends, colleagues, and the thousands of students, teachers and professors who loved and enjoyed his teaching and writing were all welcomed warmly with condolences. Gordon, I already miss you on the other side…it never crossed my mind that either of us could lose the wicket.
UWI Pro Vice Chancellor and Senior Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine said in the release that Rohlehr’s “legacy runs through the students he nurtured through conversation and intense research on the St. Augustine campus.” The students and those who flocked to his lecture hall, and the many scholars and intellectuals who benefited from his pioneering, enthusiastic and thorough research, share a deep sense of loss and gratitude.
Veteran journalist Tony Fraser says that Lawler was one of West India’s greatest intellectuals, and that his research focused on TT’s creative literature.
“It was he who put calypso on stage as one of the greatest expressions of our performing arts. He freely published his intellectual work.”
Fraser recalls a TTT studio discussion with Rohlehr and Calypsonians Andrew “Brother Superior” Marcano and Samuel “Brigo” Abraham about the genius of Theophilus “Mighty Spoiler” Philip.
“The professor taught several generations of students how to fully appreciate the work of Calypsonians and other literary writers.”
Fraser welcomed Rohlehr’s insightful writings on West Indies cricket, including an essay on his fellow Guyanese national Rohan Kanhai.
“The professor left behind his unparalleled achievements in calypso and West Indian literature. We congratulate you on your life and work. Blessings as you go.”
Veteran broadcaster Dominic Kalipersad hailed Rohlehr as a scholar of Caribbean literature, pioneering the academic and intellectual study of Calypso and Calypsonian.
“He was noted for his studies of Caribbean popular culture, including oral poetry, calypso, and cricket.”
Mr. Rohlehr spent 40 years at the UWI St. Augustine Department of English, conducting internationally acclaimed groundbreaking research on Caribbean literature, calypso and culture.
His academic interests and research have produced extensive writings on West Indian literature, oral poetry, calypso, and Caribbean popular culture.
Rohlehr’s publications include Calypso and Society in Pre-Independence Trinidad (1990), My Strangled City and Other Essays (1992), The Shape of That Hurt and Other Essays (1992), A Scuffling of Islands: Essays on Calypso ( 2004), Perfected Fables Now: A Bookman Signs Off on Seven Decades (2019) and Musings, Mazes, Muses, Margins (2020).
Bocas Lit Fest was deeply shocked and saddened by the passing of Mr. Rohlehr, “a literary man, cultural critic, intellectual leader and professor emeritus”.
“He was a beloved teacher and public intellectual in the highest sense, known for his deep knowledge and insightful writings on calypso, West Indian poetry, and especially the works of Kamau Brathwaite. Professor Lawler was a regular attendee of Bocas Lit, and it was an honor for us to receive the 2014 Bocas Henry Swansea Award for his contribution to the Caribbean Letters.
“He was a towering presence, both physically and intellectually, and the only consolation in his loss was the extraordinary body of his scholarship, always elegantly and accessiblely written, which he left us. It’s an archive.”
St Ann’s Paper Based Bookshop said its staff were deeply saddened by the news of Rohlehr’s passing, praising him for his “great talent”.
“For decades, we’ve had his books stocked on our shelves and it’s been an honor to hear firsthand from our readers the impact his generous and insightful scholarship had on their worldviews. was.
“Perhaps most of all, I am pleased that Professor Rohlehr visited me in person to provide a copy of the self-published title, which continues to be highly sought after by scholars and non-scholars alike.” Warmth, characteristic wit, and boundless intelligence. I miss them. ”
Dr. Kirk Meighoo of UNC PRO told Newsday that Rohlehr was a colleague of his at university and that his death is a “tremendous loss” to TT’s intellectual life.
“We shared so many concerns about TT’s cultural integrity and cultural life and how it fell apart — politics and all that.”
“When I worked with Lloyd Best at the TT Institute in the West Indies, we had a lot of contact there as well. He was very well connected with the whole New World Group.
According to Meighoo, this pioneering group included “a whole generation of intellectuals” such as Rohlehr, Ramchand and Best.
“I regret that their legacy has not continued in the same way.
“Professor Rohlehr has carried out a very detailed and highly intelligent analysis of our situation – music, art, culture, poetry – but unfortunately the same level of quality, intellectual ability, erudition and insight has been lacking. , devotion, and love. He had it all.
“I was always intrigued that he was Guyanese and had a love and knowledge of Trinidadian culture. It was just incredible.”
PNM sent their tributes in a Facebook post, quoting former UWI Professor of International Relations Mark Kirton.
“He was a true scholar and expert, always willing to offer advice and guidance to young scholars and students.
“Arguably one of the Caribbean’s greatest critics and thinkers, his domain covers both literature and popular culture, especially calypso.”
Lawler received an honors degree in English Literature from the University College of the West Indies, Jamaica in 1964, and wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Birmingham, England, in 1967 on Alienation and Devotion in the Works of Joseph Conrad. said.
His publications include: Cultural Resistance and Guyana. Brawl of the Islands: Essay on Calypso. Violations, Transitions, and Transformations: Essays on Caribbean Culture. and Ancestors: Kamau Brathwaite’s Ancestors and My Whole Life Calypso Readings: A Sparrow Essay.
The tribute concluded, “Thank you for the immense effort invested in cataloging and documenting our culture.”