By Paul Cantor
On Monday (October 25), reggae legend Gregory Isaacs passed away at the age of 59 after battling lung cancer. The man who many credit with creating a style of reggae called lover’s rock died at his home in London surrounded by his family, according to the BBC.
For many, Mos Def‘s lyrics in “Ms. Fat Booty” was their first introduction to the reggae legend. “She touched on my eyelids, the room fell silent/ She walked away smilin singing Gregory Issacs/ Like ‘if I don’t, if I don’t, if I don’t’,” rapped Mos Def on his 1999 hit.
Mr. Isaacs was born in Kingston, Jamaica on July 15th, 1951. He cut his teeth performing at talent shows around the island in the 60s, and made his grand entrance in the record business in 1968 with “Another Heartbreak,” a duet with Winston Sinclair. He later joined the Concords, a vocal trio, but split just two years later and went solo in 1970.
By 1973 he’d formed his own record label, African Museum. Through the label, he scored his first hit “My Only Lover,” which is largely credited as the first lover’s rock song ever made. He continued his string of hits throughout the 70s, and recorded for some of Jamaica’s top producers, chief among them Lee “Scratch” Perry.
In 1978 he signed to Virgin Records’ subsidiary Front Line Records, but despite touring almost as much as Bob Marley, international fame never found him. That changed in the early 80s, when he signed to Chris Blackwell’s powerhouse Island Records and released “Night Nurse” from the album of the same name in 1982. Unfortunately for Mr. Isaacs, he wasn’t able to bask in the success that “Night Nurse” afforded him.
Not long after gaining his first taste of recognition, he served a six month prison sentence for possession of an unlicensed handgun. At the time it was his 27th arrest, which complimented a reoccurring cocaine addiction that would plague him the rest of his career. Still, Isaacs earned another hit in 1988 with “Rumours,” and continued to release music well into the 90s. In 2008, he released a new record, Brand New Me, which was praised by music critics.
“Gregory was well-loved by everyone, his fans and his family,” his wife Linda told reporters. “And he worked really hard to make sure he delivered the music they loved and enjoyed.”
Rest in peace to legend Gregory Isaacs. Tweet us your memories of the icon at @MTVRapFix or tell us in a comment below.