Isaacs was a special talent

Jamaican reggae crooner-songwriter
Gregory Isaacs died of lung cancer on Monday in England, and it’s not just
reggae enthusiasts mourning the Cool Ruler’s passing. He was a phenomenal
talent with a long list of admirers, including Keith Richards of the Rolling
Stones.

Isaacs was only 60, but his
premature death was not surprising considering he battled cocaine addiction most
of his adult life. Nevertheless, the ‘Frank Sinatra of Jamaica’ will be sorely
missed. Bob Marley was the king of reggae, and Isaacs definitely one of the
princes, hence his moniker. His biggest hit was Night Nurse which entered the
mainstream charts in 1982 and has been used to promote the cold remedy ever
since. I am a lifelong fan of his and play his huge body of work almost daily
on YouTube. My favourites include Substitute, Number One, My Time, Mr Brown,
Front Door, Slave Master, Hard Time…

The first time I saw him perform
was at the Maidenhead Leisure Centre in the UK in January 1980. It was a
freezing night in a massive, unheated venue. Hungry and shivering, I loyally
waited with my girlfriend for four hours before he eventually appeared – evidently
stoned – to play a short set. It was still worth it. His fan base was almost
exclusively female, and for years I was a proud badge-wearing member of the
Gregory Isaacs International Fan Club despite being mocked by male friends.

Radio Cayman manager Paulette
Conolly-Bailey is one of millions sad to see Isaacs’ passing. “My favourite
songs are Night Nurse and Oh What a Feeling,” she said. “He had class but was
still humble and down to earth and was very cordial to his fans when he visited
Cayman. He was a crowd pleaser. I loved the fact that he could take pop songs
and sing them in his own smooth reggae style.”