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Gregory Isaacs

Singer/ Musician/ Cool Ruler

“Isaacs’s slightly nasal voice and intimate, sensual delivery made him ideally suited to the mellow “lovers’ rock” ballad style then popular with reggae fans in Britain, where he spent much of his later life. During the mid- and late Seventies, however, when his popularity in Jamaica began to rival that of figures such as Bob Marley and Dennis Brown, his output was equally focused on “roots reggae” themes concerning the daily struggle for survival in Jamaica’s tough ghettos. Nicknamed “The Cool Ruler”, Isaacs was a dapper-dressed performer who almost always sported a distinctive fedora and three-piece suit on stage. He co-founded his own African Museum label, on which he released much of his prodigious output. To finance such productions, he made many recordings for other high-profile Jamaican producers, among them Joe Gibbs, Barrington Levy, King Jammy, King Tubby, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly & Robbie, and Steely & Clevie. His commercial peak coincided with an addiction to crack cocaine and a spell in prison after being found guilty on a firearms charge, after which both his health and career faltered. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 2007 he declared: “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.” Telegraph