The smoothest reggae singer of them all, Gregory Isaacs, has died of lung cancer aged 59. Unhealthy reggae again.
As a chap I'd never seen real female fan hysteria until I saw Gregory Isaacs at Digbeth Civic Hall in the late 70s - 1979 ? Most of the bands and singers I liked attracted an older crowd. But that night you could have bottled the oestrogen - the first 25 yards of the (standing) floor was entirely female. The place was packed and heaving - condensation was dripping off the walls and ceiling, and the Hall's quite a big old place.
The backing band came on and tormented the crowd - playing tunes that would morph into the opening of some Isaacs classic - cue pandemonium, screams and a huge surge forward ... then they'd play something else which would in turn become the opening bars of another Isaacs song ... more mania from the girls ... they kept this up for about twenty minutes before finally the Cool Ruler stepped from the shadows and the girls really took off. The balcony was shuddering as the whole place danced for the next ninety minutes. Most impressive. I saw him again at the Hummingbird a couple of years later but that was more memorable for being bombarded with rocks from a pedestrian overpass (by bad white boys) as I was getting on my motorbike afterwards. Not a good time to have trouble with the kickstart.
I was never quite sure that Gregory was necessarily a nice man, despite his (mostly) peaceful and conscious lyrics. 27 arrests, cocaine addiction, a six month sentence. Yet that sort of thing has never prevented a chap being attractive to women.
IMHO his best albums were the mid-70s Extra Classic, and the early 80s Soon Forward - but's let's just appreciate the falling vocals on 'pearls' and 'girls' as Gregory plays his archetypal role on this early release - the man who may not have any money, but is rich in one thing. All he has is love.
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