Black Music Month: Gregory Isaacs

June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 15th, Rockers is highlighting Gregory Isaacs.

Gregory Isaacs, the ultimate rude boy of reggae, also known to fans as Cool Runner, has left an impressive mark on the world of reggae music with his unique voice and cool style. Isaacs was born on July 15th, 1951 in Kingston, Jamaica. He began his career in his teens by hopping around from producer to producer, getting his name out there before he began his African Museum recording label and shop in 1973. Isaacs had his first number one hit in Jamaica in 1974 with “Love is Overdue”, a song he recorded with producer Alvin ‘GG’ Ranglin. Isaacs was building his reputation as a roots artist and as the creator of the soulful lovers rock genre through the seventies, and by the eighties he was a reggae superstar being signed to Virgin Records.

After signing with Virgin, he appeared in the movie Rockers alongside other popular reggae musicians such as Jacob Miller, Leroy Wallace, and more. He released two albums during this time on Virgin, Cool Runner and Soon Forward, but they did not sell as well as expected.

Isaacs had his breakthrough success with Island Records in ’82 with title track “Night Nurse”. The album was popular in clubs and reached #32 on the U.K charts. At the height of success, Isaacs started to fall into legal trouble, being arrested for unlicensed firearms. He came out around this time that he struggled with a drug addiction and was in danger of jeopardizing his voice.

Through it all, Isaacs still continued to make music. In 2008 he released the album Brand New Me which was nominated for a Grammy. And his last album, Isaacs Meets Isaacs, was released in 2010 and nominated for Reggae album of the year.

Gregory Isaacs passed on October 25th, 2010 at the age of 59 after battling lung cancer for over a year. His contributions of the world of reggae music will always be felt and for all his accomplishments WERS recognizes him in honor of Black Music Month.

By Martika Mercer

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