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Lover's rock reggae singer Gregory Isaacs dead at 59

"Night Nurse" album cover
"Night Nurse" album cover
courtesy of Island Records

Iconic reggae crooner Gregory Isaacs died in London on Monday, October 25 at the age of 59. He had lung cancer. The singer was often credited with creating lovers’ rock, the romantic, R&B influenced subgenre of reggae continued on today by the likes of Beres Hammond, Glen Washington, and Dennis Brown. His most famous single was the suggestive “Night Nurse”, released in 1982. Other lovers’ rock hits included “My Only Lover” and “All I Have is Love”. He also recorded politically conscious tunes like “Border” and “Black Liberation Struggle”.

The singer’s prolific career included over 200 recorded albums on various labels, including RAS Records, Virgin, and Island. The title of his 1978 album, “Cool Ruler”, became a nickname that stuck with Isaacs throughout his career. He was well known for his sharp dressing style, and also, unfortunately, for a string of arrests and a serious cocaine addiction that damaged his voice. Recent performances were given positive reviews, however, and he seemed to be making a full recovery before his fight with cancer.

Born in the Jamaican capital of Kingston in 1951, Isaacs grew up listening to American R&B singers like The Drifters and Sam Cooke. He began recording in the 1960’s with a group known as the Concords before moving on as a solo act. He also went on to own a record store. Other accomplishments included an acting stint in the 1978 film “Rockers” in which he played a street thug, and contributed the song “Slave Master” to the soundtrack. He also did some hit collaborations with Dennis Brown, Sly and Robbie, and the Heptones.

Gregory Isaacs is survived by his wife Linda, his mother, a brother, and several children. Tributes are pouring in throughout print and online media outlets as fans and fellow musicians remember the artist and his immeasurable contributions to reggae music.