Night Nurse

Originally Performed ByGregory Isaacs
Original AlbumNight Nurse (1982)
Music/LyricsGregory Isaacs, Sylvester Weise
Phish Debut2010-10-26
Last Played2010-10-26
Current Gap472
HistorianMartin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
Last Update2016-03-01


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, “Makisupa” -> Night Nurse -> “Makisupa” – 10/26/10, Manchester, NH. Video by notmkdevo.

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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