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Picking a Red Rose for Gregory

Thursday, January 24, 2019

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Hopeton Lindo was at his songwriting peak in 1988 when he was asked to write songs for a new Gregory Isaacs album. He has a friend to thank for coming up with what would be the set's lead single.

“A good friend of mine told me that he saw a red rose on his desk at work after returning from lunch that day. He didn't know who it came from and was afraid to ask the wrong lady, I thought that storyline would be perfect for a Gregory hit song,” Lindo recalled.

Lindo, a respected singer in his own right, went to the recording studio and did a test run for the song that became Red Rose for Gregory. It got approval from the Cool Ruler.

“After I voiced the demo and it was presented to him, he loved it,” Lindo told the Jamaica Observer.

The song is the theme for a post-Valentine's Day show organised by Isaacs' wife, June. This year's event is scheduled for February 17 at Liguanea Club in New Kingston, and features Rhythm and Blues singers Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle.

Recording sessions for Red Rose for Gregory took place at Music Works studio on Slipe Road in Kingston. The facility was owned by producer Gussie Clarke, with whom Isaacs did some of his last hit songs.

Red Rose for Gregory struck a chord in dances and at radio. It was released during a rough period for the affable artiste whose career was sidetracked by his addiction to cocaine which resulted in several police arrests and court appearances.

The album featured an elite cast of musicians including the Browne brothers, Dalton, Cleveland and Danny; keyboardists Robbie Lyn, Franklin “Bubbler” Waul and Wycliffe “Steelie” Johnson, guitarist Dwight Pinkney and saxophonist Dean Fraser.

It was released by RAS Records in August 1988, with Lindo responsible for some of its brightest moments. He also wrote wrote Slow Down, Rough Neck (with The Mighty Diamonds) and Mind Yu Dis.

Rumours, the big hit from the set, was written by Carlton Hines. Lindo, Hines and Mikey Bennett were the main writers at Music Works during the 1980s, churning out hits like Shabba Ranks and Deborahe Glasgow's Champion Lover, and Telephone Love by J C Lodge.

Lindo, who is from the Kencot community of Kingston, was not surprised at the success of song and album.

“The vibes was up from the beginning of production to the final mix. Team work makes the dream work,” he said.

A South Florida resident, Lindo said he was a fan of Gregory Isaacs before he met him in the early 1980s. They worked together throughout that decade at Music Works, and in the 1990s at Cell Block Studio in Kingston.

Known for songs like Territory, Lindo did a version of Red Rose for Gregory on his 2015 album, My World Your World. He last saw Isaacs in Fort Lauderdale in 2009, one year before the singer's death at age 59.