The world lost another legend yesterday. Reggae crooner and original rudeboy lover Gregory Issacs died after a year-long battle with lung and liver cancer at the age of 59 in his London home on October 25th. One of the greatest of all time, Gregory will be sorely missed by reggae fans across the world, myself included.
Isaacs embodied the lover’s rock movement of the 70s and 80s. Alongside other late artists such as Dennis Brown and Sugar Minott , the “Lonely Lover” gave new breath to reggae with love ballads that appealed not just to the ladies, but also to the every day Joe who was just looking to get his mack on. Gregory Isaacs’ voice conveyed a vibe of coolness like no other. His female fans were swooned by it, and the dudes could only try to be as cool as he was.
Gregory Isaacs first hit it big in Jamaica in 1973, shortly after starting the African Museum record label with fellow aspiring singer Errol Dunkley. Isaac’s love of music and versatility as an artist allowed him to express the same heartfelt sincerity throughout his music, even as he sang about themes as various and as important as love, spirituality, poverty, politics, and drugs. But it was the single “My Only Lover” that first put him on the map in a big way. It would also set the tone for the slew of hits to come, including “Love is Overdue” in 1974 and “All I have is Love” in 1976, and solidify his status as a lover’s rock legend. After signing to Island Records in 1982, he released his best known album and single, “Night Nurse,” and established himself as an international star and Jamaican ambassador of baby makin’ to the world. The song got heavy radio play in the UK, with the album reaching #32 on their charts, and it even got played on the radio in the United States at a time hardly any other reggae was being played on commercial stations – no small feat for 1982. A prolific artiste, he released over 500 albums in his lifetime.
Gregory Isaacs might be gone in the earthly sense, but he will live forever in the hearts of all his fans through his voice and his music. Thank you, Gregory, for all the beautiful music.
Check out some of Gregory Isaacs’ finer film appearances below, including documentary and live concert footage.
From Land of Look Behind (1982):
From Rockers (1978):
Reggae Sunsplash 1983: