Gregory Isaacs - Front Door
Earlier this year, reggae legend and possessor of the best nickname ever, Gregory “The Cool Ruler” Isaacs passed away, and it’s only now that I can write about it without tearing up, and definitely not that I just didn’t get around to posting one of his many amazing songs. Throughout his multi-decade career, Gregory Isaacs dropped more gems than a jeweler with Parkinson’s. In true DD:LD fashion though, he wasn’t just a prolific and relatively unsung reggae hero, he was also a world-class badass, possessing both well-documented ‘struggles’ with cocaine and crack, and a penchant for illegal firearms, which all told netted him a toothless mouth and 27 arrests, and contributed to his early passing at 49 this October. Don’t take this the wrong way, Jamaica, but to be a notable drug user in Kingston is like being the smelliest guy in Brooklyn. It’s an award nobody wants, but is impressive nonetheless. Jamaica is often portrayed as a sort of seemingly idyllic paradise with an inescapable, menacing undercurrent of violence where illicit substances are ubiquitous. That’s because it is. It rules there, you should check it out.
‘Front Door’, from 1981’s ‘More Gregory’ is Gregory’s take on the musical monomyth of the unpleasant breakup. It’s a story close to my heart; packing everything you own into a shopping bag and moving out of your old lady’s house because your relationship sucks, and maybe settling for the next thing that crosses your path rather than being lonely. Now that’s what I call romance! So much of what made the music of Gregory Isaacs notable is here on display in this classic - almost uncomfortably lascivious moaning, a dozy, dawdling backbeat, awesome little synthy burbles, and the dulcet tones of the Lonely Lover, Mr. Gregory Isaacs.
I’m not trying to suggest that I’m more fabulous than you (I am, check out this scarf!), but I’ve been to Jamaica a few times and one thing that always strikes me is the ratio of their creative output to their size. They’re to music what Sweden is to cellphones. There are dozens of bonafide international stars that call this relatively tiny island home, and just driving down the road you’ll see sign after sign for small events featuring talent like John Holt, Marcia Griffiths, etc. It was at one of these small shows that I was lucky enough to see Gregory Isaacs in 2009. I couldn’t feel my face at the time but he really kicked my lilly-white ass. True story: I was sitting having lunch in Negril the next day and Gregory Isaacs walked in with the largest Jamaican I have ever seen and sat down. I nearly shit my pants, but that was really more a factor of my diet at the time. I was excited too, though.
Gregory Isaacs, The Amish Statesman of Reggae