a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation

Performances Song History Lyrics

Night Nurse

Music/Lyrics: Gregory Isaacs, Sylvester Weise

Vocals: Trey

Original Artist: Gregory Isaacs

Original Album: Night Nurse (1982)

Debut: 2010-10-26

Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)

Though it gained its popularity in London and is arguably the first indigenous black British pop style, the Lovers Rock style of reggae was actually invented – with the release of his 1973 hit “My Only Lover” – by Kingston-born Gregory Isaacs. This kinder gentler island sound represented the non-combative counterpoint to the Rastafarian uprising that dominated the Jamaican music scene in the 1970s. Where the Rastas were willing to roar and fight to escape the boot heel of their “downpressors,” the adherents of this soulful side of reggae were intent on infusing their sun-splashed world with a touch of tenderness and loving action.

Gregory Isaacs, “Night Nurse” 

Nowhere is this soothing soul style more evident than in “Night Nurse,” the title track of his 1982 album, a release marking the pinnacle of Gregory Isaacs’ recording career. This album – Isaacs first for Island Records – featured the Roots Radics as his backing band and Sylvester Weise as his songwriting collaborator. In stark contrast to this zenith of loving vibration, Isaacs served six months in a Kingston prison that same year for possession of unlicensed firearms. Although he claimed they were for self defense, his incarceration revealed that his latest offense was in fact his 27th arrest, and that he had become embroiled in a life of drug dealing and abuse. 

On 10/26/10 in Manchester, NH, the night after the cool ruler of the reggae dancehall Gregory Isaacs succumbed to his battle with lung cancer, Phish honored his contribution to their shared “authentic Jamaican roots reggae” genre by seamlessly weaving his signature song into another “knock and talk” visit from the “Makisupa Policeman.” Following closely on the heels of Trey’s “shrug and a nug” response to the home invasion, the only remedy to quench the Jah thirst fills the Manchvegas dance hall with the silky smoothness of an exhaled cloud of the dankest chronic. 

Phish, “Night Nurse” – 10/26/10, Manchester, NH

Ironically, considering the bronchial nature of the lonely lover’s demise, the “Night Nurse” as embodied in Isaacs’ lifelong battle with crack cocaine addiction may have been a contributing factor to his death. 

The message in “Night Nurse” is ultimately a cautionary tale to those who may tend toward substance abuse and addiction. This warning was best summarized by Isaacs himself in 2007: 

"Drugs are a debasing weapon. It was the greatest college ever, but the most expensive school fee ever paid – the Cocaine High School. I learnt everything, and now I've put it on the side."

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roycemark Reply
roycemark I have been a Phish fan for a long time and I was "couch touring" that show because my daughter had been born earlier that day (another great nurse tie-in for me personally). When I heard their seamless transition into "night nurse" chills ran up my spine. Trey helped ease those chills with some of the 'gooeyest' vocals I have heard from him in a long time. Then he brought those chills back with those short guitar licks between verses. As they effortlessly dipped back into Makisupa I still could not get that infectious night nurse groove off of my mind. These are the moments we chase. I will be glad to share this one with my daughter many times over.
Score: 1
RunawayJim4180 Reply
RunawayJim4180 We all thought the segue would be into "Stir it Up" by Bob Marley at the show, what a surprise this one was. One of the most reggae-centric setlists I've ever heard them play.
Score: 0
soslowly Reply
i heard of his death pre-show, didn't even put 2+2 together at the time. when the boys sandwiched it in makisupa it felt like it belonged there, perfect segue in and out. hopefully it will remain a one-timer for the ages.
beautiful rendition
Score: 0
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