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REGGAE ROOTS VIBES

Gregory Isaacs - Cool Ruler (1951-2010)

April 12, 2015
Another musical genius succumbed to the dreaded cancer disease. The reggae fraternity lost Gregory Anthony Isaacs, another pioneer of the genre. Gregory’s career spans over four decades and he was one of Jamaica’s most beloved balladeer. This musical stalwart is said to have appeared on over 500 albums, many of which are compilations.

“Oh What A Feeling”, “Rumours”, “Love Is Overdue”, “Night Nurse”, “Top Ten”, “Soon Forward”, “Front Door”, “Hard Drugs”, “All I Have Is Love”, “Red Rose For Gregory”, “One Man Against The World”, “I’m Just A Stranger In Your Town”, “I Am Wanted”, “Turn Me On”, “Tune In”, “Number One”, “Heng On”, “I Don’t Want To Be Lonely Tonight”, “Give Me A Chance”, and “Sad To Know That You Are Leaving”  are just a minute fraction of his musical arsenal that remains in our archives to cherish for generations to come. But how did it all started?

Gregory Anthony Isaacs affectionately dubbed “Cool Ruler” was born on July 15, 1951, in the Fletcher’s Land community in Kingston, Jamaica. As a teenager and like so many of Jamaica’s other musical stalwarts, Gregory participated in several talent concerts, wooing audiences with his unique singing style. In 1968 his debut recording was a duet with Winston Sinclair entitled “Another Heartache”, for producer Byron Lee. However this song failed to create the impact that the young Isaacs was anticipating. Gregory decided to team up with two other vocalists to from a trio, naming the group “The Concords”.


In 1970 the members of the group parted ways launching Gregory’s solo career. In 1973, in partnership with Errol Dunkley (another great Jamaican vocalist), they launched the “African Museum” record label and record shop. To keep the label afloat Gregory recorded with several record producers. His massive hit “My Only Lover” was dubbed as one of the first lovers rock record ever made. A string of hits was to follow as glimpses of his versatility began to unfold. Songs like “All I Have Is Love’, “Black a Kill Black”, “Extra Classic”, and a cover version of Dobby Dobson’s “Loving Pauper”. The period between 1973 and 1976, resulted in several classics. Gregory released more songs than most artistes did in their lifetime.

In 1974 Isaacs top the charts with the hit single “Love Is Overdue”. Throughout the 1970s Gregory had recorded with most of Jamaica’s top producers. By the late 1970s he had become one of the biggest Reggae act globally. This resulted in him doing several tours throughout the United States and Europe. The 1970s also produced the hit singles “Border”and “Number One” for the Alvin Ranglin’s “GG’s” record label. In 1978 Gregory inked a deal with “Front Line Records” (an offshoot of “Virgin Records”). This union produced the albums “Cool Ruler” and “Soon Forward”. He also appeared in the film “Rockers”. In 1978 Isaacs released the album “Mr.Isaacs” on Dennis Brown’s “DEB” label. Dennis Brown had also released several classic albums on Gregory’s “African Museum” label.

In 1981 Gregory “Cool Ruler” Isaacs made his debut performance at “Reggae Sunsplash’. For the next decade he was to become a permanent fixture on this annual music festival. “Cool Ruler” next career move was to link up with “Charisma Records”, which resulted in the albums “The Lonely Lover” and “More Gregory”. A succession of hits was to follow with songs such as “Permanent Lover” and “Tune In” among others. Gregory Isaacs finally got his big break when he signed with “Island Records”. His released of the single “NightNurse”, which was to become his signature tune. 


The lyrics of the song:
Night Nurse Lyrics
[Verse 1:]
Tell her try her best just to make it quick
Whom attend to the sick
Cah there must be something she can do
This heart is broken in two
Tell her it's a case of emergency
There's a patient by the name of Gregory

[Chorus:]
Night nurse! only you alone can quench this ya thirst
My night nurse! oh gosh
Oh the pain is getting worse

[Verse 2:]
I don't wanna see no doc
I need attendance from my nurse around the clock
Cah there's no prescription for me
She's the one the only remedy

[Chorus:]
Night nurse! only you alone can quench this ya thirst
My night nurse!
Oh the pain is getting worse
I'm hurt my love

[Verse 2: repeat]
I don't wanna see no doc
I need attendance from my nurse around the clock
Cah there's no prescription for me
She's the one, the only remedy

[Outro:]
Night nurse! only you alone can quench this ya thirst
My night nurse!
Oh the pain is getting worse
I'm hurt my love
And I'm sure, no doctor can cure
Night nurse, night nurse, oh gosh

The album “Night Nurse” was Gregory’s debut album for the “Island Records” label. The album peaked at number 32 on the U.K. charts. This period of his life also produced several challenges. Along with his cocaine addiction, he ended up serving a six month prison sentence for illegal possession of firearms. He later celebrated his release from prison with his second album entitled “Out Deh” for the “Island Records” label. In 1982 he was featured in the documentary “Land of Look Behind”. In 1984 he released the single “Cool Ruler Come Again” and he also parted company with “Island Records”. The album “Private Beach Party” was released in 1985 and his collaboration with Sugar Minott in 1987 on the album “Double Dose” highlighted his importance in the dancehall.  His massive hit single “Rumour” was to follow in 1988. Songs such as “Rough Neck”, “Too Good To Be True”, and “Mind Yu Dis” were next. The album “Red Rose For Gregory” was also released that year.




The Cool Ruler and Beres Hammondcollaborated on the single “One Good Turn”, for producer Phillip “Fatis” Burrell. In 1994 Burrell also produced Isaacs’ “Midnight Confidential” album. The 1990s was a period in which Gregory Isaacs unleashed several songs for his “African Museum” label. Battling to overcome his drug addiction impacted hard on Gregory’s voice and the resulting effect was the lost of several of his teeth. Quoting from a statement that he made in 2007, 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”.

At one time in his career he was dubbed “Jamaica’s Teddy Prendergast” (from the American superstar). Over the years he has staged several charities for the kids. He was a truly remarkable individual. Gregory was a singer, song writer, music promoter, recording executive and philanthropist. In 2007 he collaborated with the Spanish rap group Flowklorikos on the album “Donde Duele Inspira”. That same year he also performed at the “ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 Inauguration” ceremony. In 2008 Gregory released the studio album “Brand New Me” which was nominated in the Grammy Awards for 2010. The album “My Kind of Lady” was released in 2009. Gregory’s last album entitled “Isaacs Meets Isaacs”, with Zimbabwean Reggae singer, King Isaacs was released in 2010.



After a long battle with lung cancer, Gregory Isaacs lost the battle on October 25, 2010, at his South London home. He died peacefully. Several accolades and musical tributes have poured out globally for this musical stalwart that was known as the “Cool Ruler”. A day after his death, fans of the late singer has sky-rocketed his music catalogue to chart above all except the legendary Bob Marley. From North America to Europe his album sales has been sky-rocketing on several charts. On Wednesday November 10, 2010, family, friends and fans gathered at the All Saints Anglican Church in Harrow Weald, London, to bid farewell to the Cool Ruler. The Jamaican government was represented by the High Commissioner to the U.K, Anthony Johnson. The body was later flown to Jamaica for an official state burial with interment at the Dovecot Cemetery. Prior to that the body was viewed by several of his fans and concerts were also held to celebrate his life.


Anthony Williams

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