25/10/2010. Gregory Isaacs died this morning in London after struggling with illness. The Cool Ruler, who was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, had since toured extensively abroad and then traveled around Jamaica before returning home to London this summer to spend time with his wife, Linda, and his family. "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," Linda was quoted as saying on the BBC website, "He will be greatly missed by his family and friends." It is still deeply shocking and disappointing news for all fans of reggae music and is a great loss.
Gregory was at home on all type of riddim. Starting out in the early reggae era with harmony group The Concords (1969-71), he soon made his name as a soloist with his distinctive, fragile vocal style, recording both classic love ballads and cultural/topical Rasta sufferah anthems. He soon took control of his own music with his African Museum label, producing 3 absolute classic late-70s albums; Cool Ruler, Mr. Isaacs and Soon Forward. His international profile was boosted by his highly charasmatic role as Jah Tooth in the 1980 Rockers movie and continued to grow in the early 80s dancehall era as he enjoyed a worldwide hit with the 1982 album Night Nurse. More success came in 1988-90 with a string of killer tunes for Gussie Clarke and Two2Friends, including Red Rose For Gregory and the mighty Rumours. Combinations with Ninjaman, Dennis Brown, The Mighty Diamonds and Junior Reid, among others, helped maintain currency in the dancehall well into the 1990s. He was a distiguished live performer and I was lucky enough to see him several times. He was sometimes mobbed onstage by the ladies who'd come armed with red roses for him! Gregory Isaacs was close friends with the late, great Dennis Brown, often duetting, sharing albums and touring with him.
There is no definative best recording or period as the Lonely Lover released real classics in each genre time and time again. His best work, though, came out between 1973 and 1989. The 1978 lp Cool Ruler is probably my favorite album of all time, bar none!