The immortal Gregory Isaacs died yesterday and in honor of the self-styled “Cool Ruler” and “Ladies Man” I’m reposting a show review and interview we did with him for OvaHere at the 2006 San Francisco Raggamuffins Festival. Our interviewer, Jean Francisco, was his #1 fan, and he didn’t dissapoint in person.
“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.”—Robert Nesta Marley.
Lights dimmed, lighters out, herbs lit. The 24th Annual Ragga Muffins Festival celebrated the 61st birthday of Robert Nesta Marley, aka Bob Marley. Reggae sounds from Kingston Jamaica, Germany, England, St. Croix, Brooklyn and the Bay Area highlighted the festivities of the day. The beats of the music, the awesome voices, and the dances of the crowd was exhilarating. Yet the highlight of the evening was not only seeing talented artists perform, but it was meeting a particular one.
Here I was, a local girl from Hawaii, enjoying the reggae sounds I grew up with. I didn’t recognize a few of the bands, but their performances were nothing short of amazing. During the initial hours of the concert, I watched artists like Gentlemen, Dezarie, and Mystic in the Roots from the balcony and rocked my head to their beats in my seat. I stayed up in the balcony to do my interviews. In reality though, I wanted to do my interviews before Gregory Isaacs came on because once that happened, all I’d be doing (besides drooling over him) would be skanking to his music.
Once the “Cool Ruler” was introduced on stage, the floor was where I needed to be. I rushed into the crowd and tried my best to catch a glimpse of who people called the “Lady’s Man.” The emcee was definitely right when he told the guys of the audience to hold on to their girlfriends or wives because once the sound of his voice came on, the ladies were definitely pouring in.
Gregory Isaacs performed all of my favorite songs, like “Night Nurse” and “Stranger in Town,” and was simply outstanding – mainly because of the fact that he was performing right in front of my face. His performance was amazing and his voice… Let’s just say his smooth tone would put you in a trancelike state so deeply that when you close your eyes, his voice reached the depths of your soul (or maybe just mine).
After his performance, I was still in disbelief – I finally saw one of my favorite reggae artists perform. I kept talking about his performance with my co-worker, Nino, and from the look on his face, I could tell I really needed to stop. We walked to the press room, not knowing that what would happen next would be life-changing (for me, that is). As we waited for more press to come, the PR Rep of the Ragga Muffins Concert asked us if we wanted to meet some of the performers. When I asked who we would be meeting, my heart dropped when I heard his name. Gregory Isaacs!
As we entered his dressing room, I tried to think of what I was going to say to him. Should I ask about his life or his music? Was my breath even okay? Nino kept pushing me to talk to him, but I stood frozen in my steps. Just when I thought I missed my interview with him, the PR Rep told me “OK, it’s your turn.” I slowly walked towards him, my heart pounding against my chest. This was it.
After taking in huge amounts of oxygen, I finally began my interview. I asked him the usual questions: “When was the last time you performed in San Francisco?” “Which artists did you really want to see on stage?” I tried to keep it together when I heard his answers in his deep Jamaican voice, but his response to my last question nearly pulled me over the edge. When I asked the prolific Lady’s Man, “So what part of a lady do you like the best?” He smiled at me and simply said, “The mind, body, and soul.” At that moment, I did not know if I was going to faint in front of him, or hug him.
OK, so he’s like 55 years old, and maybe I would not actually dump my boyfriend for him. Don’t think I’m some obsessed teeny bopper or some girl who does not know how to pick the right guys. But COME ON – a girl can’t help mesmerizing over a guy whose voice touches her soul!