Published Oct 25, 2010One of reggae's biggest stars has died. Gregory Isaacs, known as the "Cool Ruler," is dead at age 59.
Isaacs passed away this morning (October 25) in London after a year-long battle with lung cancer, the BBC reports.
Isaacs had a five-decade recording career and was one of Jamaica's best-loved singers. Often tipped to be the next Bob Marley, especially after signing with Marley's Island label in 1982, Isaacs's career was plagued by drug addiction. Nevertheless, he was one of the prolific singers in Jamaican history, with certainly more hits than anyone else in reggae.
Born in 1951, Isaacs began recording in the late '60s at almost exactly the same time that reggae music emerged. Following a brief stint as part of the Concords trio, he began to develop the "lonely lover" persona whose forlorn, romantic croon was a major part of his appeal. By mid-decade, he was working with the island's top producers, including Lee "Scratch" Perry.
Isaacs continued his momentum in England where he signed to Virgin Records' Front Line label, where the Cool Ruler album from 1978 gave him his nickname. He moved into more political and social topics at this time, in which his plaintive voice took on a new dimension.
In 1982, he brought his most enduring hit, "Night Nurse," one of the most widely known reggae songs. But on the eve of a world tour, he was arrested on firearms charges and was imprisoned. He continued to record heavily during the '80s, though the opportunity to crossover in a Marley-like way had passed. His track "Rumours" became an anthem of late '80s dancehall.
Isaacs's hit-making days were largely over by the mid-'90s, though his reputation was assured and he continued to record steadily and tour. His last album Brand New Me was released on his own African Museum label in 2008. One of his last recordings came out earlier this month as the title track to Juno Award-winning reggae artist Dubmatix's System Shakedown.
Though Isaacs hadn't had a hit in many years, his continued popularity was evidenced by four entries in Twitter's top ten worldwide trends this morning.
He leaves his wife Linda and three children.