found on telegraph.co.uk:
Gregory Isaacs lived in the fast lane
The reggae star was lucky to have lasted as long as he did, says Andrew Perry.
By Andrew Perry
Published: 5:33PM BST 27 Oct 2010
For any aficionado of Jamaican music, the news of Gregory Isaacs’s passing is deeply sad, if not exactly unexpected. The sweet-voiced reggae star was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, but on an island where life expectancy remains pitifully short, he lived in a lawless manner, which only shortened the odds on an early demise.
Yet, for all his involvement in gun violence and drug trafficking, Isaacs’ music throughout the Seventies and Eighties was rarely short of sublime, effortlessly translating the star-lit romance of American soul into top-rate reggae. In his prime, Isaacs had a voice which could have seduced a female statue into bed.
Gregory Isaacs Like many a teenage punk fan, I first heard his best-known anthem, 1982’s Night Nurse, on John Peel’s radio show, where his inimitable, exquisitely reedy tones somehow struck a chord beyond the reach of your average reggae singer. Imploring a woman to help him overcome his recent heartbreak, he crooned borderline-daft lyrics such as, “No, there’s no prescription for me, she’s the one, the only remedy”, with forlorn conviction.
Though it was his only mainstream hit in this country, Night Nurse was just the tip of the iceberg, the highlight in a vast and almost compulsively churned-out repertoire, the majority of which cast him as vulnerable and downtrodden, forever searching for his one true love. Fans might have had a good chuckle at his ever-wily chat-up lines, but you couldn’t help but be magnetised by his ghetto coolness. Bob Marley may have sold many more records, and become reggae’s global poster-boy, but Isaacs, the so-called “Cool Ruler”, always had the edge.
You heard stories that he and his crew, even by Jamaican standards, were pretty heavy duty: his empire in Kingston centred around his African Museum record store on a street corner known as Idler’s Rest – reputedly one of the city’s absolute no-go areas.
After his addiction to crack cocaine had decimated his vocal abilities, I saw him perform a number of times. He would dip out of singing anything approaching a high note, and was only there for a few numbers, but I somehow never left disappointed. He didn’t have to do much more than walk on stage to win over a crowd with his droopy-lidded star quality.
When I finally got to meet him in 2007, Isaacs, mercifully, seemed finally to have outgrown the street-tough menace of his youth. At an interview in a hotel in Wembley, he was accompanied by a large posse of friends, who ribbed him about his duties as an international celebrity, all of which he accepted with modest good humour. On another occasion, I witnessed a rather surreal ceremony, as this infamous bad boy was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award at the Jamaican High Commission in Kensington.
Isaacs remained a folk hero to the last. One apocryphal tale had him blazing up Brixton Hill at 100 mph during a London visit, with police cars trailing in his wake. When they finally flagged him down, Isaacs coolly wound down his window, and ended up signing autographs for all the bobbies’ wives and children, instead of notching up the latest in a long line of arrests.
At 59, all things considered, he’d had an unforeseeably good innings, and left behind some of the world’s sexiest music.