Gregory Isaacs, Reggae’s Cool Ruler Legacy Kept Alive 10 Years Later

Gregory Isaacs

Gregory Isaacs

by Howard Campbell

KINGSTON, Jamaica – The last time June Isaacs saw her husband, Gregory Isaacs, was in September, 2010. He was leaving for London and stopped by their home in Kingston.

“He told me he was going to have a surgery but everything was going to be fine. I figured something was wrong,” she recalled.

Isaacs, one of reggae’s premier balladeers, died on October 25, 2010 in London at age 60 from cancer. He never underwent surgery.

Ten years after his death, his wife has steadfastly helped keep his legacy alive by overseeing a flow of albums and the annual Red Rose For Gregory show in Kingston.

June Isaacs

June Isaacs

“That’s grown from strength to strength. It has become a very nice tribute,” said June of the Valentine’s Day event which has attracted Rhythm And Blues acts like Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle.

Gregory Isaacs was from the tough Denham Town community in west Kingston which was one of the hot spots for the early Jamaican music industry.

He developed a reputation for lovers rock reggae with songs like Love is Overdue, All I Need is Love, Soon Forward, Tune In and Night Nurse.

Those songs earned him the nickname, The Cool Ruler, and won him fans throughout the world.

But he was also dogged by an addiction to cocaine that led to multiple court appearances, and challenged his marriage. He and June got married in December, 1983 and separated in 2003 but never divorced.

Despite his much-publicized struggles, June Isaacs said Gregory was a dedicated family man and an aggressive businessman “who never romp with him money”.

She also remembers him as a prolific songwriter who would lock himself away with his guitar.

“He got a lot of ideas from Mills And Boon (romance novels). He had a Bible in one back pocket and Mills And Boon in the other,” she joked.

Gregory Isaacs was awarded the Order of Distinction (Jamaica’s sixth highest honor) in 2016. June accepted the award from Governor General Sir Patrick Allen in October that year.

She believes her greatest tribute to him is to ensure he gets his due as an artiste.

“When any mention is made of reggae pioneers Gregory Isaacs’ name comes up. I want generations to come to know his voice and songs,” she said.

 

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