Sat | Sep 21, 2019

Isaacs sent home in style

Published:Thursday | November 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Gregory Isaacs' daughter Sandra makes a point to her brother Tommy (right), during a memorial service to celebrate the life of the singer at All Saints Anglican Church in Harrow Weald, London, yesterday. At centre is Jamaica's high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Anthony Johnson, who paid tribute on behalf of the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaican community in the UK. JIS photo

London, United Kingdom:

Reggae legend Gregory Isaacs once again took superstar billing as hundreds of well-wishers, rather than mourners, celebrated his life in unique style in London yesterday.

A sunny, crisp autumn day set the stage for the Cool Ruler's final appearance in the city he regarded as his second home.

The All Saints Anglican Church in Harrow Weald, North London, was packed to the rafters as passionate, reflective tributes flowed from those who knew and loved the singer.

The Gregory Isaacs All Star band played all the popular rhythms over which Isaacs delivered numerous hit songs over a 40-year career.

The Cool Ruler looked restful as he lay draped in silk, dressed in a white suit with glistening studs and a beautifully engraved Bible placed in his hands. The artistically carved dark oak coffin was draped in a red, gold and green flag bearing the image of the Lion of Judah. A single wreath made of white roses sat atop, beside his trademark white fedora.

Tributes flowed, despite not following a specific order. Family members and friends painted Isaacs as a spirited comedian, friend, father and musical genius.

Anthony Johnson, the Jamaican high commissioner to the United Kingdom, gave a tribute on behalf of Prime Minister Bruce Golding; Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Olivia Grange; all the members of the Jamaican Parliament and the Jamaican community in the UK.

Global superstar

Johnson said Isaacs' life and work showed Jamaica's true potential in his rise from very humble beginnings to become a global superstar.

Long-time friend and band leader Clifton 'Bigga' Morrison recounted his years with Isaacs in a tribute that was anecdotally engaging and informative.

Morrison gave a moving account of Isaacs' last days as he visited the cancer-stricken entertainer at his bedside. The audience joined him in a frequent chant, "We love you, Gregory".

But perhaps the biggest tribute of all came in the spontaneous chaos that erupted when the band began playing Gregory's music. Much of the audience converged at the front of the church and sang his lyrics word for word. Vicar James Mercer appeared stunned but quickly acquiesced, as Isaacs' fans were determined to dispatch with protocol and celebrate his life in a style reminiscent of his many encore performances across the world.

Among the members of the entertainment industry in attendance were J.C. Lodge, Winston Francis, Sylvia Tella, Janet Kay, Niney the Observer, Audrey Reid and Carl Bradshaw.

Following the ceremony, Isaacs' remains were taken to a rest home at Gatwick Airport from where he will be flown to Jamaica today for an official funeral on November 20.

Isaacs died in London on October 25. He was 60 years old.

- JIS