Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse, the hit single from the Reggae icon’s 1982 album of the same name, crossed the 100-million-plays mark on Spotify on Saturday, April 29.
The single, which was certified Silver in the UK earlier this year, was first released by Island Records under the label’s Mango Imprint in 1982. Produced by Isaacs and Flabba Holt, it is arguably the most recognizable tune from the singer’s extensive catalogue, which impressively exceeds 500 albums over his 40-year career.
In 2010, Christopher Serju, a Jamaica Gleaner writer, recalled a conversation with Isaacs, in which the icon revealed the message behind Night Nurse. It wasn’t about his insurmountable struggle with drugs, as many had thought.
Isaacs explained: “When you feel sick, you belly a hurt or you have a headache inna the night, the first person you draw (call) for is you woman. Whether she make a cup a tea or whatever she haffi do, she a really the first nurse deal with you.”
He further reasoned: “If you have a bredda (brother) who is a doctor and him even have a helicopter and you take sick inna the night, by the time you fi call and him come, you dead.”
The track’s far-reaching success saw it being covered by famed Reggae duo, Sly and Robbie and the English band Simply Red.
Isaacs’ wife June Isaacs recently told DancehallMag that he loved the Simply Red cover version, which peaked at No. 13 on the UK Singles chart upon release in 1997. “Gregory loved Simply Red’s version of Night Nurse. He felt honored when he heard it,” she said.
The original song was also featured in Rockstar Games’ multi-billion-dollar gaming franchise Grand Theft Auto, and it is also ranked at No. 57 on DancehallMag’s list of most-streamed Jamaican songs of all time. Meanwhile, over on YouTube, an unofficial upload of the song has so far amassed over 73 million views.
The album, Night Nurse, proved also to be a smashing success in its own right. A total of eight tracks, the project was certified Silver in the UK after it surpassed 60,000 units in sales back in September of 2021. It also peaked at No. 32 on the UK Albums Chart, and featured several of Isaacs’ other well-known songs, including Hot Stepper, Objection Overruled, Material Man, Not the Way, Stranger In Town and Sad To Know (You’re Leaving).
For all his legendary talent, the five-time Grammy-nominee led a career that was as untapped in potential as it was in struggles. The artist, popularly known in his heyday as the Cool Ruler – owing to his exceptionally smooth vocals and laidback delivery, faced life-derailing cocaine addiction.
He had called the destructive and uncontrollable habit “the greatest college I’ve ever been, but the most expensive school fee I’ve ever paid,” and would end up separating from his wife June because of it.
In October 2010, at the age of 60, Isaacs passed away in London from lung cancer.
Since 2017, ‘Red Rose For Gregory’ – an annual concert held in his honor and organized by his wife, has helped raise funds for the Patricia House drug rehabilitation center in Kingston, Jamaica.
Cementing Isaacs’ legacy, the Jamaican government officially recognized the singer’s contributions in 2016, posthumously awarding him the Order of Distinction (Officer Class).