Reggae singer Gregory Isaacs may have passed away but according to persons close to him he will not be forgotten.
The veteran singer, 59, died yesterday morning at his home in London, England. Isaacs’ manager Copeland Forbes confirmed that the artiste died at his home following a long illness. Rumours of him being ill had circulated for weeks prior to his death but was later dismissed by his management team.
Gregory Isaacs was born on July 15, 1951, in Fletcher’s Land, Kingston, and began recording in his teens. With his unique sound and romantic songs, he became a leading proponent of the ‘lovers rock’ style of reggae. Affectionately called the ‘Cool Ruler’, Isaacs was best known for hits such as Rumours and Night Nurse, the latter being the name of his 1982 album. He established his own African Museum record label and released his final album Brand New Me in 2008.
Since news of his death spread, persons across the globe have been playing songs in his memory. According to Search.com, Gregory Isaacs was the number one trending topic on social networking site Twitter.
Desmond Young, president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians, told THE STAR that he knew Isaacs for many years, having gone on tour with him in Japan and done many shows with him in Jamaica. According to Young, Isaacs was a very jovial person who was always the life of any gathering. He said, “Gregory has left behind a large catalogue of excellent hits that are known all over the globe. He contributed greatly in spreading our infectious music.”
He added, “Although expected, we still can’t accept his passing, we’ve lost a true icon. We just want to express our condolences to his family and friends.”
For singer George Nooks, Gregory Isaacs has left a legacy that will always be remembered. He told THE STAR, “I met Gregory way back in the early 70s, and he’s just one of the nicest persons you can ever expect to meet, a very good friend of mine. We travelled all over the place together.” According to Nooks, he spoke to Isaacs last week Thursday and said at the time he wasn’t doing well. He said, “When I spoke to him his words were mumbling but I told him to hang in there and do him work.”
The singer was supposed to have gone to England for a tribute to Isaacs but as the event drew near Isaacs he said, was not doing well and the event had to be put off.
“The day before yesterday I checked up on the place he was staying in England and they said he would be gone at any moment, so I was listening out for it. Gregory was just a great great person,” he added.
For Michael Barnett, promoter of Heineken Star Time, the veteran singer will be sorely missed. According to Barnett, when Isaacs hit a stage all he had to do was ‘sing and groan’ and the crowd would go crazy.
He recounted, “Gregory was away from Jamaica for about five years in the early 90s. I was the first promoter to bring him back for the first time in 1996 for Heineken Star Time at Peppers. The anticipation was extremely high for him, he’s probably the most loved artiste of all time in Jamaica I would say behind Dennis Brown. And Gregory destroyed, flattened Peppers that night. After he left the venue the response was so strong I had to run his car down for about half a mile cause no other act could follow him onstage after that. He’s not a man to do encores, but I guess he felt pity for me and came back and destroyed it again.”
Olivia Grange, minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, with responsibility for Entertainment, has said that the death of reggae star Gregory Isaacs is the latest in a series of painful losses to the Jamaican entertainment community in recent years, joining those gone before like Alton Ellis, Roy Shirley, Byron Lee, Desmond Dekker, Brent Dowe and Joe Gibbs.
The minister recalled that Gregory Isaacs was a veteran of teen talent contests by the time he got his first recording break from the late Byron Lee in 1968.
After many initial failures, he had teamed with two other vocalists to form the Concords, which lasted until 1970 when he relaunched his solo career, initially producing his own records and opening his own record shop. She said, “So his career was not only about singing: he was a singer, a songwriter, music producer, promoter and recording executive. Few Jamaican artistes can match this versatility, and even fewer were able to succeed in so many areas of entertainment.”
She added, “Therefore, we must recall Gregory as one of the great pioneers of our entertainment industry and thank him for the courage and confidence he passed on to his juniors, in terms of using their own initiatives to overcome the hurdles of the industry. I mourn his loss as the minister responsible for culture, as a good friend of Gregory and as a fan of good Jamaican music, and hope that his struggle and eventual success will be a model for young Jamaicans in the entertainment sector to emulate.”