This week was a brutal one. It started on Monday with the memorial service for Professor Barry Chevannes, whose sudden passing earlier this month took Jamaica by surprise. It ended today with the funeral service for the late Gregory Isaacs, the beloved Jamaican singer whose death a few weeks ago caused his name to trend on Twitter (worldwide) for an entire day. Considering how big Gregory was abroad it was surprising to see how small the crowd that came to send him off in Kingston was. The service was no less a treat for those who took the trouble to attend, myself included.
The star-packed programme ran smoothly and swiftly, with singer after singer performing to a rapturous audience in a rousing prelude to the actual service itself. The National Indoor Sports Centre was by no means filled to capacity but Gregory’s fans and friends sang and danced to his memory in a touching and heartfelt tribute to the cool ruler. It was a mature crowd, very few young folk around; I don’t recall seeing any of the big names in Dancehall there and no LA Lewis wasn’t in attendance…
Ken Boothe, The Tamlins, Shaggy, Freddy McGregor, Judy Mowatt, George Nooks, A. J. Brown, Etana, Ernie Smith and the Nexus Choir were among those who performed while Tommy Cowan emceed the service. An enthusiastic bunch of women commandeered the video light by dancing and singing in the aisles when Nooks and Shaggy performed (see videos below).
Gregory was born in Fletcher’s Land, Kingston.His father was a Garveyite. His aunt, Mrs. Myrtle Shepherd, talked of how Gregory’s mother would dress him in sailor suits as a toddler. Numerous anecdotes were told of Gregory’s wit and good humour. Fond stories were related such as “Gregory used to say Neva bruk a man foot coz u might have to pass him on yr way back so just sprain ‘im ankle…” On another occasion when his room was invaded by enthusiastic fans in an African country where he had performed, he took refuge in someone else’s room after hiding the large sum of money he had earned under the ice machine at the hotel. According to him it was better that it got slightly wet than stolen.
Mikie Bennett once told me that Gregory was a very unassuming man, not given to delusions of grandeur despite his celebrity. When he performed at shows in Jamaica he would arrive early and ask to be allowed to perform soon so that people wouldn’t have to stay till the wee hours of the morning just to hear him. This is why i missed hearing him, when i arrived fashionably late at a Heineken Startime where he was performing, thus blowing my one chance of seeing Gregory Isaacs perform live.
Red roses, flags and Trilby hats were some of the memorabilia on sale outside the venue. On my way out i stopped to buy a Trilby and ended up taking the photo below of a fellow customer who couldn’t decide if he should take a white one or not. The picture convinced him to part with his money much to the vendor’s delight.
I leave you with some YouTube videos of the footage i took of the utterly heartwarming dancing and singing at the Cool Ruler’s funeral today. Have a look. Already in less than two days one of them has been viewed 634 times and the other one 723. We underestimate the interest of the Jamaican diaspora in what is happening back home. The following comments were left on the videos:
missmarjel Give thanks for posting this. It’s really important for those of us that could not be there in person. blessed.
MegaSoundkilla Do u have the clip when he Beried under the ground
Unfortunately i don’t have any footage of the burial not having gone to Dovecot for the interment. Incidentally quite a few people are angry that Gregory Isaacs was not given a hero’s funeral at Heroes’ Park and are circulating a petition to remedy this. On the matter of the low attendance at the service a music producer friend thought it might have been due to its being the third event in his honour in the space of a week. Last Thursday there was a huge free concert in his honour which was extremely well attended. I’m glad i went to the funeral service though. There’s nothing to beat the spirits and vibes at a Jamaican funeral anyway, but when its someone popular like Gregory or Bogle, it’s always extraordinary.
I apologize in advance for the abrupt way the videos end. was worried about batteries. Till soon.