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Artist Profile
Gregory Isaacs
Jul 15, 1950 ~ Oct 25, 2010
The ‘Cool Ruler’ ran things for much of the late 1970’s delivering fine Loverman songs and equally impressive Reality & Rasta Tunes. Today he is the great survivor who is loved for his fierce independence.
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Real name:
Gregory Anthony Isaacs
Place of birth:
Jamaica
Kingston
Fletcher Land
Gregory Isaacs began as part of the Concords who recorded a handful of sides for Rupie Edwards' Success label he began to record as a solo artist in 1970 & 1971. After one track each for Prince Buster ('Dancing Floor') and for Glen Brown (the sublime 'One One Coco') Gregory set up the African Museum imprint with his brethren Errol Dunkley and delivered two great tracks in the shape of 'Look Before You Leap' and 'My Only Lover'. But by 1972 he begun doing the rounds of Kingston's studio as a voice for hire – and with Gregory you always got more than a voice. Over the next two years he voiced for Randys, Gussie Clark, Lloyd Campbell and especially Alvin 'GG' Ranglin who captured Gregory's plaintive tenor on cuts like 'Sweeter the Victory'.

1975 was the year that The Rasta faith of the Ghetto's of Kingston became the driving force in reggae and it was the year that Gregory Isaacs released a series of sublime tracks, often self-produced. Such as 'Beautiful Africa', 'Something Nice' and a brace of tunes for Niney, 'Bad Da' & 'Rock On', all served to add to his growing stature in Kingston. Even today the Horns cut of Rock On on disco 45 fetches serious money in auctions. Gregory had his own African Museum shop in Idlers Rest, and he even produced a few other ghetto artists for his label.

The following year saw his own African Museum imprint return to the fore with tracks that took Gregory to the top of the JA & UK reggae worlds. 'Rasta Business', 'Black A Kill Black', 'Warrior' and 'Extra Classic' saw Gregory as both the smooth lover and the cool brethren on the street whom no one got the best of. This dual persona won him legions of female and male fans who loved him all the more live as he could deliver both a fabulous voice and a powerful persona.

Three tunes in 1977: 'Set The Captives Free', 'Mister Cop' (cut at the Black Ark) and 'Slave Master' (for Lloyd Campbell) raised the bar as Gregory really found his groove. Gregory's music moved to the new 12" Disco 45 format with huge success from 1977 onwards when he had a string of Reggae hits with productions from Alvin 'GG' Ranglin(Alvin Ranglin), ('Chunnie You Are My Number One' & 'The Border') Lloyd Campbell ('Mr Know It All' & and Sly & Robbie ('Soon Forward' and 'Motherless Children').

It wasn't long before this degree of popularity attracted record company interest from the UK where Virgin records had begun investing in Reggae on its 'Frontline' imprint. Virgin issued JA productions from Gregory & Sly & Robbie and the albums 'Soon Forward' and 'Cool Ruler' achieved strong cross-over sales, with 'Cool Ruler' becoming Gregory's moniker, as it captured his persona so well.

Gregory then signed up with the UK 'Pre' label and issued the African Museum albums 'Lonely Lover' and 'More Gregory' which cemented his position as No1 Lover Man. In true Gregory style Disco's and singles emerged from various other links with JA producers including the fine 'Sunday Morning' with Bunny Wailer at the controls.

It was Island that then took on Gregory and worked to create a sound that would cross over and employed Paul 'Groucho' Smykle to mix down the Tuff Gong cut tracks. The keyboard playing of Wally Bardou also added to the mainstream appeal of Gregory's music. Tracks like 'Night Nurse' and 'Cool Down The Pace' became cross-over hits in London but his records old hardly at all outside the M25. Gregory's profile would never be higher: He was the cool ghetto crooner: he wore wonderfully tailored suits, elegant hats and flowing locks that had the women screaming and the guys respectful. He was a star for a new generation of British born West Indians and for a newly internationally successful JA music business.

It was once said that Gregory always remained 'resolutely feral' – meaning he was always his own man and won't be controlled by anyone, so it was no surprise when his 'rude boy' lifestyle caught up with him and he served time in Kingston's General Penitentiary on a drugs charge. His 'Out Deh!' album on Island proved to be his last with the label and once again he struck out without a major UK deal.

A pattern of voicing for any producer - with the right amount of Dollar - saw floods of Gregory Tunes hitting the market throughout the decade. He cuts tunes for Jammys, Steely & Clevie & Bobby Digital(Bobby Dixon). 1985 saw his last big, almost cross over hit, when his 'Rumours' Disco for Augustus Gussie Clarke delivered a new Hi-Tech digital sound that marked the start of a whole new direction for reggae. UK imprint Acid Jazz tried to tame Gregory and achieve cross-over status but once again it was not to be.

Isaacs would never be at the forefront again but has continued to record tunes, even as his drug problems meant his voice became rather thin and nasally – his nose was in trouble and his teeth gone. He recorded for a never ending series of producers as his close relationships with drugs took hold. Remarkably he managed to not only deliver some great vocals from time to time but also to stay alive!

He died at his London home on 25th Oct 2010. Gregory had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 and continued performing until weeks before his death. He was at the age of 59.
 
Related artist(s):
Errol Dunkley
Dennis Brown
Freddie McGregor
Label Profile
Jah Shaka
1980 ~
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Hit title(s)
CD Dub Salute 1 with Horace Andy - Jah Shaka UK
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Description of item
[All Items] → [12"] → [Dancehall 1985-1989] → [Dancehall 1985-1989] → [Gregory Isaacs;African Museum]
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vinyl 12" 12"
Gregory Isaacs;African Museum
Just Infatuation / Just Dub
Jah Shaka UK
¥1780 ¥1680 (US$15.55)
Rating: 123
Genre: Dancehall 1985-1989
Sub Genre: Dancehall 1985-1989
Produced by: Jah Shaka
Approx. year: 1989
Date added: May 27, 2009
Date re-stocked: Apr 1, 2010
Country: England
Catalog number: SHAKA874
Music type: Vocal B: Version
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