Cool product for Cool Ruler - Branded water, mural for late Gregory Isaacs
The late Gregory Isaacs was known as 'The Cool Ruler' for his signature laid-back, seductive crooning style. And now there is a product on the market intended to cool people down named after the late reggae superstar.
In Tune In, one of his popular songs, Isaacs invites a potential lover to "meet me at the corner, down your avenue/and I will be waiting, waiting there for you". On Wednesday, July 15, on the 64th anniversary of his birth in Fletcher's Land, downtown Kingston, close friends, loyal fans, and relatives will meet at the corner of Orange and Charles streets to celebrate his life. The event will also be used to launch the 'Cool Ruler' brand of spring water, as well, the unveiling of a mural.
This is the latest effort by the Gregory Isaacs Foundation to preserve the singer's legacy and continue his philanthropic work after his death in London, England, on October 25, 2010, from cancer. The bottled water was a natural choice, his widow, June, explained, given that Gregory, even at the height of his battle with cocaine addiction, was a strong advocate for water as the best source of hydration.
"Although he had that challenge, Gregory used to drink a lot of water. He wasn't really a juice man, but promoted the drinking of water. If you came around and were having a soda, he would say 'No, no. Drink some water', and try to convince you about the health value of doing so," she told The Sunday Gleaner.
Now the 500ml bottle of spring water bearing Gregory's picture and his pronouncement that "only u alone can quench dis ya thirst!" (a quote from Night Nurse) will be available at select outlets initially. It is bottled at the source in Portland, where June was born.
There was a testing of sorts last year before the more widespread release. "I tried it at his memorial last year and it worked ... . It wowed everybody, so I just said, 'Let's get into it'," Isaacs said.
Some of the proceeds from the sales will go to help the Walker's Place of Safety, Kingston, and Black Harmony Basic School in Central Village, St Catherine, which benefited from Isaac's benevolence during his lifetime. Also slated to receive funds is the St Barnabas Basic School in Fletcher's' Land, the first school Isaacs attended and which was added to the list of supported institutions by the foundation.
For June, the location for the launch and celebration is strategic as well as nostalgic since it was there she met Isaacs who, along with life-long friend and confidant Trevor 'Leggo Beast' Douglas, operated Cash and Carry Records. With Leggo at the helm, even though its primary purpose was the sale and distribution of vinyl records, the shop soon emerged as the hang-out spot of choice for some of the artistes who would also go on to achieve fame and fortune.
For promising, fledgling entertainers like Peter Tosh, Big Youth, Dennis Brown, Bunny Wailer, Errol Dunkley, and Junior Delgado, among others, Cash and Carry became their headquarters or unofficial boardroom. It was
from there, for example, that Dennis Brown's DB label was launched locally.
"When you go there so a evening time, everybody is there. All the artistes and everybody hold a vibes and if you want to find any a them acts, a deh so you have fi come," recalled June.
For Leggo, who now owns the property from which Cash and Carry operated, Isaacs' strong hand of friendship remains a cherished memory. "I was distributing for him and him give me the support, bredren, 100 per cent support. Even up at Orange Street where I was, I remember when him call me say 'Leggo, mi get some money, weh mi fi do with it?'" he told The Sunday Gleaner.
That was in 1978 and Isaacs was calling from England, his first visit there, and was flush with cash, proceeds from the release of his first album Cool Ruler. Not many Jamaicans were au fait with the concept of wire transfer of money but Leggo was unfazed.
"Mi say mi ago call somebody and mek you give them the money and I call the person and we pick it up in Jamaica and them time a $20 (was the largest denomination) you know man. And them time deh a two, three Grace bag a money we go collect the morning deh. And him say, 'tek weh you want out of it' and I take $5,000 and rent up a Orange Street and started Cash and Carry," Leggo said.
The thrust to carry on Isaacs' work started shortly after his death. "A year after Gregory died we officially started his foundation, which basically is to continue his charitable work and keep his name alive and embark on any other possible positive things weh we see can enhance his name," June Isaacs said.
In addition to the efforts for the youngsters, there is also a focus on something which was a consistent part of Isaacs' public life - substance abuse. "We also have an anti-drug campaign, Gregory passed in October and was buried in November, which is Drug Awareness Month, and he was associated with drugs for so many years we embarked on a campaign of abstinence. He himself had a message for the youth. He did an interview with one of our journalists where he was appealing to the youths like stay off drugs, leave the guns alone and so on," his widow said.
His words have been put to good use in the project, as a clip from that interview where he is saying I used it, it's not good, don't and is utilised each November, in collaboration with the National Council on Drug Abuse to send the message across.
There is also still more to be heard from the Cool Ruler's voice in a more accustomed format. Isaacs said there is still unreleased music, the TAD's outfit responsible for that side of the late singer's legacy.
Thrown in the limelight after her husband passed, the experience has been great for June Isaacs. "It's still a learning process for me, but I think I'm managing with my team behind me," she said.