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I was saddened to hear that the reggae singer and song writer whose career sky rocketed in the late 70′s into 1980′s, passed away earlier today (25 October) surrounded by family and friends at his London home, after a battle with lung cancer.
Over the weekend rumours abound about his declining health, with some outlets reporting he was in a coma, led to his wife Linda Isaacs denying he was in a coma but admitted “he’s not good”.
His wife said today: “Gregory was well-loved by everyone, his fans and his family, and he worked really hard to make sure he delivered the music they loved and enjoyed. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.”
Born in Kingston Jamaica on 15 July 1951, he grew up in a poor section of Kingston called Denham Town.
I personally remember him for his lovers rock numbers that made up the soundtrack of my youth and although ‘Night Nurse’ one of his most well known singles and self titled albums was not a massive hit on the UK charts, it was hugely popular at clubs, radio and house parties. Along with the likes of Dennis Brown and John Holt Isaac no party or weekend clubbing was incomplete without their unmistakable sounds.
Isaacs in particular had a very polished sexy sound, which was often punctuated by low moans and groans and I often remarked back then, that he was reggae’s answer to the legendary soul singer Teddy Pendergras.
Regretfully Gregory Isaacs never attained the same cross over appeal as Bob Marley, probably due to some self destructive habits. While he should have be on a natural high with the success of Night Nurse, Isaacs was doing a 6 month stretch in a Kingston, Jamaica jail.
Depending on what report you read he had anywhere between 27 to 50 arrests, mostly gun and drug related crimes.
His addiction to crack cocaine contributed to his unreliability and the eventual deterioration of his voice that had given so many people pleasure. However, it appeared that he had conquered his demons and had positive reviews for shows in 2009.
In a 2007 interview with the Daily Telegraph he said: “Drugs are a debasing weapon, “It was the greatest college ever, but the most expensive school fee ever paid….the Cocaine High School. I learnt everything, and now I’ve put it on the side.”
A prolific music recorder, he released close to 200 albums and recorded for a variety of Jamaican record labels and major labels such as Island and Virgin. Although mainly identified with lovers rock and dance hall style, he also ventured into songs of social conscience and commentary such as ‘Black Liberation Struggle’.
In an interview with the Toronto Star in 1986, Isaacs said:
“From since I was growing up, I liked love songs…Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke. That was the kind of songs getting the girls dancing.”
RIP sweet music man.
The Duchess and Hackney Hive.