Story of the Song | June and Gregory Isaac work up a sweat on Red Hills Road
The late Gregory Isaacs' African Museum facility, close to the intersection of Red Hills Road and Red Hills Boulevard, St Andrew, housed the Poor People's Recording Studio (PPRS), which his widow, June Isaacs, describes as serving the community. "He allowed talented youth from the area to come there and record" Isaacs said. Of course, the studio also served as a hub for persons in the area pursuing music, Isaacs saying "people like Sanchez, Flourgon, Daddy Lizard used to gather there, for they were area youth."
Gregory did many recordings there, June saying that three Grammy-nominated albums Brand New Me, Private and Confidential and Isaac Meets Isaacs, were done in the PPRS. A joint effort with John Holt, Body Language, was also done there, but it is the song Work Up A Sweat which puts some extra pep in June Issacs' voice.
She was there at its beginning, as the couple wrote the lyrics and came up with the melody in their bedroom on Sunrise Crescent, off Red Hills Road, in the process of "just hol' a vibe".
"People think it's me in the background singing, moaning and groaning, but it was not me. I was there when it was being recorded," Isaacs said. Wrong Move, from the Firehouse Crew, was one of the musicians and June heard her husband's satisfaction with the steamy song from far away when it was complete, as he approached home. "I could hear him playing it at top volume," she said. It was something that Gregory would do, especially when he recorded a song that he particularly liked, sitting in the car for up to half an hour when he came home, listening to the song over and over. "Then I just go out and we hold a vibe," June said.
Work Up a Sweat has had different stages, as June says when it was first put out in the 1990s, the song did not make much impact. Then it came up again many years later, Gregory saying to her, "Mummy, you remember this tune?" Now, June hopes Work Up a Sweat will have a third lease on life. "I am just hoping to find the right persons to do it over, to do it in a raunchy style," she said.
The song continues to play on her emotions. "Mi love it. Every minute mi listen to it and just smile," Isaacs said.
She continues to celebrate Gregory Isaacs with the annual Red Rose For Gregory concert. The 2019 staging will be at the Liguanea Club, New Kingston, on February 17, with a mixture of Jamaican and overseas performers. Peabo Bryson, Regina Belle, Boris Gardener, Junior Sinclair with Roots Radics Band, Fab Five Band, Ray Isaacs and Triston Palma are slated to perform.