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Story of the song | Cocaine confession turns concert encore

Published:Sunday | November 13, 2016 | 11:00 AMMel Cooke
Gregory Isaacs

This year, the date of Gregory Isaacs' death (October 26, 2010) was close to when he was awarded a posthumous Order of Distinction in the 2016 edition of the annual ceremony at King's House, Old Hope Road, St Andrew.

Isaacs, the Rastafarian who cut his locks (and sported a trademark hat), the rude boy with a taste for snazzy suits on stage, a man of few (or no) words in between songs on stage but who made the women swoon with his lyrics, walked with an undeniable swag - augmented by a limp. The composite of contradictions, which was the beloved Cool Ruler, was epitomised by a cocaine-use confession and commiseration on record, which became a concert encore standard.

For when Gregory conceded to return to the stage after a typically short set, which left fans demanding for more, the song that would usher him back on stage was Hard Drugs. He would stroll on singing, "dem still want more" to the roars from an audience that understood his history and always appreciated the wry humour of how he turned the "dem" wanting more in Hard Drugs to the "dem" wanting more of his singing.

Hard Drugs came out on the album All I Have is Love, Love Love. It looks at the insatiable desire of the cocaine user and the lengths he would go to get a fix:

"They still want more...

The more them get it

A the more them want it

Lord knows

Some will even try to take his brother's life

Just to achieve it."

Then comes the chorus:

"Talking about hard drugs

The more they get it they still want more."

Prime players in the cocaine saga, the sellers and the buyers - make the second verse, where "man are like junkies all over town."

 

EFFECTIVE

 

It is a very short, effective song, with an upbeat melody and music, in contrast to the topic of the track. And Isaacs' more publicised encounters with the drug seemed to do nothing to diminish his long-term popularity with a loyal fan base. Perhaps that was because he spoke about his addiction, including an interview with The Gleaner's Christopher Serju, which he revisited on Sunday, October 31, after Isaacs' death.

In the story, Isaacs said, "I used to fight against it (cocaine), too, but them times, I couldn't afford it. I used to say them people a fool fi touch them things," he said.

The story continued: "Once the hits started paying off, though, and he could afford to move with the 'in' crowd, the entertainer found himself on the other side of the fence, recalling his first foray into drug abuse as 'very nice but dangerous'."

Isaacs had his regrets, as Serju wrote: "In the 1988 interview, Gregory lamented the incalculable price he paid for the addiction he described as dangerous and costly - with freedom, love, respect, money, friends, and privacy lost to and through drugs."

"It's the greatest college I've been to - the Cocaine High School - but also the most expensive school fees that I have ever paid ... . I learnt a lot from it, both good and bad. I wouldn't encourage anybody to try it."