In “Reggae Superstar Gregory Isaacs’s Contribution to His Native Jamaica Buried with Him?” Paulet Biedermann reminds us that it has been two years since reggae superstar the late Gregory Isaacs passed away. Stating that his departure symbolizes a turning point in reggae’s history, she bemoans the lack of recognition for Isaacs’ significant legacy and contributions to Jamaica and the internationalization of reggae music in his own country. Here are excerpts with a link to her full commentary below:
Isaacs has dominated the reggae industry for over forty years. An industry veteran, he has written, produced and performed some of reggae’s biggest and most popular hits in the genre’s fifty years. Unbeknown to a lot of people, Isaacs has put Jamaica on more maps than all reggae artistes combined in his short lifetime. He travelled from continent to continent swooning everyone with his velvety voice and string of mega hits: Tune in, Top Ten, Slave Master, Soon Forward, Slave Market, Love is overdue and the biggest seller of all, Night Nurse…. The love is overdue singer has worn many titles, Cool Ruler, Sadam, Lonely Lover, Sergeant……but most befitting is king of lover’s rock. To be referred to as the king in your genre of music, is the highest honor of excellence in the music industry.
Isaacs had a short, rich, rewarding and troubled life, leaving this earth prematurely at the tender age of 59… [. . .] He was loved by Jamaicans from all walks of life: from the politician to the doctor to the single mothers to the ghetto youths and comfort ladies. That said, the one thing is for sure, this is a great human being and one who transcends class, race and status.
There were times when hungry mothers and shoeless children would line up at African Museum to get money for their rent, school books, food and clothes. He was a mentor, a confidant and big brother to a lot of young artistes. During his funeral celebration, Reggae star Shaggy performed one of Gregory’s classic, Front Door. While on stage, this is what he said about the cool ruler. “If it was not for the cool ruler, I would not be standing up here today. He took me under his wings and guided me” He further said that he was not the only artistes that Isaacs helped in some way or another. It is also said that he was a great anti-violence against women advocate. [. . .]
The closest we may ever get to figuring out who Isaacs was, is by his good deeds and his music. During his funeral celebrations his long time friend and producer Castro Brown admonished the Jamaican people and especially the Jamaican Government for the lack of national recognition and respect shown to this great man who did so much for his country and his people. He analogized Isaacs to the Beatles and Sir Elton John. They were knighted by the monarchy for their musical contribution to their country. He emphasized that Isaacs not only put Jamaica on hundreds of maps globally, but attracted tourist to Jamaica which in turn contributed to the economy. Isaacs’ contribution to his country, his culture and the internationalization of reggae music seemed to have gone un-noticed as this genius has not been recognized formally by his country.
[. . .] It is true that Isaacs did not receive the national recognition he deserved; but in fairness to then Minister of Youth Sports and Entertainment the Hon. Olivia Grange, she chaired the planning committee for Isaacs’s funeral arrangements and this I believe to be a good gesture on the part of the government. But that is about it! Two years since his passing and one does not even hear breeze blow much about this genius of a man let alone national recognition by his country.
Looking at Isaacs in terms of the man, the legend, his talent, longevity, number of and quality of songs/albums he recorded; one has to agree that Isaacs is top notch all the way. His love and passion for reggae music is ever present in his work. Notwithstanding the lack of recognition for his extensive catalog of lover’s rock and social justice oriented themes, he has left a hell of a legacy and shoes that are so big that one would have to have giant feet to be able to fit into those. That said, SHAME on the Jamaican government for ignoring this musical genius and one that has given so much to Jamaica! I wonder if grand mama Africa would consider adopting him posthumously. After all, he has been neglected and abandoned by his country of origin in the black sheep style.
Undoubtedly, any country would love to adopt an orphaned musical genius, even if it’s posthumous.
For original article, see http://www.sflcn.com/story.php?id=12312
Photo by David Corio, from http://largeup.okayplayer.com/2010/10/26/the-rulers-back-more-gregory-iconography/