David Michael Rudder is one of nine children in the family. He is the son of Elsie Rudder, who is a housewife, and Lionel McLean, who is an oilfield worker in La Brea in South Trinidad. Little boy David Michael suffered from polio at the age of one, which left one of his legs affected. His mother, Elsie, admitted that she was terribly affected whenever children tease her son. She used to cry about this, but the young David Michael would always comfort her saying that everything is alright.
He spent much of his childhood with his grandmother who is a devout Spiritual Baptist. When he was a child, he was baptized three times. His grandmother had him baptized as Baptist; his mother had him baptized in an Anglican Church, and, when he started school, as a Catholic.
There is not much to say about his education because at a young age, David Michael Rudder already started joining carnival tents and singing competitions. Being exposed to the very diverse community he grew up with inspired his inclination to the arts—painting and sculpture really caught his interest. He even became an apprentice to the late Ken Morris, a master craftsman known for his copperwork and carnival designs. Until this time, David Michael Rudder admits that he still paints. He said, he is more of an artist than an entertainer.
The artistic talent of David Michael Rudder is very evident. At the age of nine, he started joining singing competitions. He started his singing career with the Ink Spots on Boissiere Lane in Belmont. He began his professional singing career as a back-up singer in Lord Kitchener’s Calypso Revue. (Lord Kitchener was one of those great singers he looks up to.)
It is in this carnival tent where he earned his reputation as a back-up singer, although at that time, singing was not his main career; he was, at that time, working as an accountant in the Accounting Department of the Public Transport Services Corporation.
The constant echoing of the steel pans and the chanting of the Shango Baptist greatly influenced his music, as a matter of fact, these has become the heart of his music—other influences include the African music of Yossou, N’Dour, Salif Keita, Mory Kante and Alpha Bondy. At a very young age, David Michael Rudder started writing songs (when he was 14 or 15). He is considered as one of the few calypsonian singers who writes his own songs. For years, he had patiently worked behind the scenes of some calypso tents. There he observed how things run in action.
Herbert then suggested that his friend, David Rudder, become his replacement while he recuperates. Rudder was able to build a reputation for his scintillating performances and for singing his own songs during his temporary stay with the Charlie’s Roots that is why when Christopher Herbert came back, Rudder was retained as a co-lead singer of the band.
He continued performing with group for the Carnival productions of the most innovative and controversial carnival artist Peter Minshall whose masterpieces were used in some distinguished events like the Barcelona Olympics of 1990 and the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Since then, Rudder’s music became closely related to Minshall’s bands. After nine years with the band, he entered the calypso tents as a solo singer.
His undeniable talent, unique personality and clean image made him rise to fame in no time. The year 1986 was the start of the highlight of his career in music when he won The Young King, the National Calypso Monarch (The Hammer and Bahia Girl), the Road March King (Bahia Girl) and the Panorama competition. Fame and prominence came in easily in David Rudder’s musical career. In 1988, Rudder released Haiti, which included the title track, a tribute to the glory and suffering of Haiti.
In the same year, he also released the Engie Room which features the catchy energy of the steelband and Rally Round the West Indies which has become the national anthem of the West Indies Cricket. More awards followed. In 1990, his album 1990 was awarded as “Best Calypso Album of the Year” at the Fist Caribbean Music Awards at the Apollo Theater in New York while the title track received “Song of the Year” at the Nefeita Awards. Following that, his album Rough and Ready was awarded three Sunshine Awards. In 1991, four of his tracks were used as soundtracks of the Warner Bothers film Wild Orchid: “Dark Secret” (two versions), “Children of Fire” (Children of Xango) and “Just a Carnival”.