Gregory Isaacs, one of the artists who made reggae cool in the 1970s and 1980s, has died of lung cancer in London. Isaacs was 59, according to E! Online. His most famous work was the song “Night Nurse,” released in 1982. Isaacs differed from other reggae greats such as Bob Marley when he infused soul and romance into his music instead of politics and society. Isaacs’ first recording was in 1968, when he sang a duet with Winston Sinclair. Isaacs didn’t become famous until his 1982 success and “Night Nurse.”
Isaacs will be missed by many as he was a living legend and hero to many reggae fans.
In the vein of Barry White, Gregory Isaacs made it cool to sing a slow, sultry song. Imagine all of the rap-response songs of today only with romance attached to it, and you have Gregory Isaacs. Maxi Priest also comes to mind every time I hear “Night Nurse.”
With slow rhythm like bodies swaying back and forth, it’s no wonder that many people were entranced by Isaacs’ sound. Isaacs wrote over 500 songs and released tons of albums in his 30 years, but none were as famous as “Night Nurse.”
Memories of Isaacs
Growing up in St. Louis, we had some forward-thinking record stores and a lot of cultures came together in the city. Some of my high school friends had Gregory Isaacs albums before gangsta rap was “in” or “cool,” and when I asked to borrow a few, I even had the gall to ask a girl out in high school using “Night Nurse” as a backdrop.
I tried listening to other reggae music, but Isaacs was always my favorite. As I matured along with his music, I felt Isaacs was teaching my “Masterclass,” just as his album of the same name. Although I never used “Night Nurse” again to ask someone out on a date, my wife and I did spend some cozy nights on the couch singing his songs. We even tried to imitate his Jamaican accent.
Even when Isaacs’ voice began to fail him on his later albums, we still enjoyed his throaty love ballads until his final U.S. release. Isaacs’ voice matured as he got older, just like any artist-listening to Sting perform live made my wife and I realize he can’t hit the higher notes he used to. But also like Gregory Isaacs, Sting’s songs got better with age.
Even as Isaacs’ voice got older, his focus on love songs did not. The eternal romantic will always be remembered as such in my mind, no matter how old his voice sounded.
E! Online, “Reggae Loses Its Cool: Gregory Isaacs Passes On”, eonline.com.
Yahoo! Music, “Gregory Isaacs Biography”, music.yahoo.com.
Artist Direct, “Gregory Isaacs @ Artist Direct”, ArtistDirect.com.