May 5th, 1941 – Paul Richards was born in the village of Green Bay, however, at age four, he relocated to Barnes Hill where he resided with his grandmother and started school as well. After a couple of years, he moved back to live with his parents in Green Bay, where he began attending the Green Bay Primary School. His father laboured as a contractor while his mother worked as a domestic worker and cook. He recounts his mothers’ love for singing which saw him and his eight siblings travelling with her to the market when she would sing for the people. These experiences would set the stage for his future musical endeavours in addition to the singing exposure received in school and going Christmas caroling.
Richards earned the name Obstinate while attending school from a teacher due to his obstinacy and it was a name that he embraced and one that stuck with him as he grew and came to be used as his stage moniker.
King Obstinate first entered the calypso arena in the mid fifties after much encouragement from others. He began performing at a calypso tent at Queen Elizabeth Hall which was located where the National Archives is today. In 1956, he was crowned king of the tent and in 1958, after the advent of Antigua Carnival, he won the local calypso crown with his songs ‘Dance, Dance Dance’ and ‘Obsti will sing again’. His prize for winning this competition was a bottle of rum and $100. His entry into the competition in 1959 did not fare so well as he placed second.
Shortly after the 1959 carnival he migrated to the USVI in the summer of 1959 where he resided for a number of years before moving on to New York in 1963. Richards continued to perform and pulled a few more crowns under his belt. Though overseas, he kept abreast of what was taking place on the local front and continued to size up the competition.
He returned to Antigua in 1979 after his father had died and decided that he would remain in the country. He returned to the stage with ‘Children Melee’ and secured the third place spot. In 1980, he was eliminated from the competition. In 1981 he stormed to the crown. For the next two years, Richards held a firm grasp on the crown, then announced his immediate retirement. This move would earn him the title of ‘undefeated king’ as he bowed out of the arena with his crown still intact, the first to do so.
In 1998, Richards suffered a stroke and had to travel to the US for rehabilitation. Following this ordeal, the artist began singing gospel and was widely known for his version of ‘Wounded Soldier’.
Apart from his exploits in music, Richards has been a successful entrepreneur. He ran a nightclub in St. Thomas for a number of years, and continues to operate the popular Obsti’s Bar and Restaurant here in Antigua, which has been in existence for three plus decades. Richards’ prowess as an entrepreneur is also linked to the creative industries. His short-lived calypso tent is fondly remembered by many calypsonians for offering compensation to the artists each night they performed. That was a novel feat at the time of the early1980s.
Throughout his career and life, Richards has received a number of awards to commemorate his achievements in the industry to include the The Most Precious Order of Princely Heritage Grand Cross (2005), Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order (2013) bestowed by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. Beyond his homeland he was a recipient of the Sunshine Music Awards.
Sir Paul ‘King Obstinate’ ‘Obsti’ Richards’ songs continue to be a staple among the population and part of the tapestry of our calypso lexicography. A large number of his songs are timeless classics.
“Wet You Han And Wait Fu Me!”