Beloved crooner Gregory Isaacs would have turned 70 this year, and his widow, June, is making good on her promise to make this year’s celebrations unforgettable.
Ribboned ‘The Red Weekend’, a three-day affair will unfold from February 14 to 16, comprising a dinner at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston on Valentine’s Day, the fourth annual Red Rose for Gregory concert on Saturday, and no-doubt a ‘cool ruler’ beach party on Sunday.
“We’re growing so we want it to be an experience and more than a show.”— June Isaacs
The party will culminate the weekend’s festivities at Wickie Wackie Beach in St Thomas, but not before international vocal powerhouse Deniece Williams performs at the concert scheduled for the Liguanea Golf Academy in New Kingston.
“When we’re choosing artistes, we considered our theme which is Valentine’s and love and Gregory’s repertoire of songs was mostly lovers rock,” June told BUZZ. “We have a very good committee, so we choose wisely as well, and Deniece was a longtime friend of Gregory. Because this year is so special, we said we’d use her, and she readily said yes at a reduced cost so it works in our favour.”
The four-time Grammy winner started her R&B music career in the 1970s and is known for classics like Let’s Hear It For The Boy, Free and Too Much, Too Little, Too Late with Johnny Mathis. Even after transitioning to gospel later in her career, Williams still reeled out the hits with songs like I Surrender All, Healing and Do You Hear What I Hear. Joining Williams is reggae fusion group Third World, Sanchez and the ‘new’ Melodians.
“We haven’t finalised the other segment of the local package, but we’re gonna be having a musical tribute to Gregory, a part from a dancing tribute which will be done by Orville Hall of Dance Xpressionz,” she said. “We’re growing so we want it to be an experience and more than a show. Last time we had a bit of jazz with instrumentalists Dean Fraser and Megumi (Japanese saxophonist) and it was well-received. Every year we try to put in something different than singing.”
The concert is orchestrated by the Gregory Isaacs Foundation and is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. In keeping with last year’s show (which served stellar performances by Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson), awards will be given to some of Isaacs’ closest friends.
“Last year we did Roots Radics, Gregory’s first band and Copeland Forbes, Gregory’s manager, so this year we’re thinking of Errol Dunkley,” June said. “When Gregory started off it was him and Dunkley, so we’re giving him an award and also Trevor ‘Leggo Beast’ Douglas who has been his distributor and like family for years. We’re also awarding the Live Wyya band which was Gregory’s last band.”
Isaacs, who was always open about his battle with drug addiction, died from cancer in 2010 at age 59. Part proceeds from the concert will go to the Patricia House drug rehabilitation centre in Kingston and also the St Barnabas Basic School where he started his early childhood education.