Sir Isaac, the Karaoke King, will be missed

By Barry Carter | The Star-Ledger
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on February 14, 2017

 

Isaac Brown, the "Karaoke King,'' held court to an amped-up crowd every Tuesday night in Newark.

By 8p.m., the Chateau of Spain restaurant would be packed with fans, who know him more affectionately as "Sir Isaac.''

His melodic alto tenor voice pulled them in. His charismatic personality kept them there, convincing timid singers to belt out a tune.

"You don't have to sound good, just make a noise,'' he would say.

Last Tuesday, the Sir Isaac fans sang with joy for having known their friend, and they sang with pain for having lost him.

Isaac Brown, 40, of Newark was shot and killed on Feb 2 while he was a patron at an illegal after-hours bar that Newark police shut down later that day in a house on Norwood Street.

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office is investigating Brown's death, which has devastated everyone who knew him. His family, his friends, his Karaoke faithful.  They all could see his future taking shape professionally and personally.

Music was Brown's life and so was Shakerra Jackson, the woman he was planning to marry.

"You think you have someone and you're ready to build a future, and something like this happens and it messes up your trust and your faith in what you believe,'' said Jackson, of Newark.

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office is investigating Brown's death, which has devastated everyone who knew him. His family, his friends, his Karaoke faithful.  They all could see his future taking shape professionally and personally.

Music was Brown's life and so was Shakerra Jackson, the woman he was planning to marry.

"You think you have someone and you're ready to build a future, and something like this happens and it messes up your trust and your faith in what you believe,'' said Jackson, of Newark.

They met (take a guess) during Karaoke night in Hillside three years ago. Since then, he never stopped serenading Jackson, even at their baby shower.

Layla, his first child, was born Jan. 4

"God blessed him with a month,'' said his mother, Linda Brown, of Newark. "I don't understand how this could happen to my son.''

No one can. Everyone was hurting last Tuesday, trying to wrap their heads around his death, wondering if Karaoke will ever be the same. His fans have followed him for years, watching his popularity rise in New Jersey, New York and beyond.

Wherever he went, 74-year-old Wilma McNair of Newark - followed. She has known Brown for 13 years and never missed a Tuesday night during the six years he had been at the Chateau restaurant.

"He made you feel like somebody,'' McNair said. "He's a beautiful young man.''

And he's another tough loss for Newark.

Brown worked hard at his craft. He's been everywhere, it seems, honing his talent. An ultimate entertainer, Brown has performed at weddings, Bar-Mitzvah's, employee Christmas parties and numerous social clubs in Essex and Union counties. He even had a stint on a cruise ship, appeared at the Apollo Theatre and blew away an audience at Universal's CityWalk's Rising Star, a popular Karaoke club in Orlando, Fla.,  

"He tore the house down,'' said Alicia Roberts, a Karaoke fan from Montclair, who saw him there.

Although he was versatile, Karaoke was his base and his fans loved how he could get people to sing. No one was ridiculed. If they were off-key, he'd sing back-up to keep them on beat and make them laugh by pretending to be a back-up dancer.

Behind his powerful vocals, Brown could sing any musical style, including R&B, jazz, classical and gospel. He'd start most evenings off on the turn tables, warming up the crowd up with his DJ skills, spinning House Music favorites before taking the microphone.

"He was the light in everyone's heart,'' said Charlotte Bryant, 61, of Newark, who sang "Being with You" by Smokey Robinson during the Tuesday night tribute to Brown.

If you were having a bad day, Brown could pick up on your mood. By the end of the night, fans and family said, Brown had you leaving on a natural high.

"He could walk into a room and connect with anybody,'' said his sister, Donna Brown, of Piscataway. "He never met a stranger.''

He did it through singing, a gift he picked he up as a child from his mother, who sang in a gospel group and her grandfather, who led a gospel quartet.

"Isaac sat at my feet when I would be practicing my songs for church,'' said his mother, Linda Brown. "He must have been 3 years old when I heard him tapping out notes on a toy piano.''

Brown's talent began to develop in the East Orange school system and was discovered in the 5th grade in Alief, Texas, where the family lived for a while before returning to New Jersey.

He would go on to do a few plays and spend time in the studio, recording singles and writing songs.  An album project with his good friend, Al-Tariq Best, of Newark, has yet to be released.

"This is really messing with me,'' said Best, founder of FP Youth Outcry Foundation.

Away from the stage, Brown was laid back and loved his animals. He had so many pets that he could have written a song about his three rabbits, two dogs, a cat, and a turtle.

They were his children and he treated them that way. You'd see him on errands riding his Kawasaki motorcycle with his pocket-book size Yorkshire Terrier. She wore goggles, nestled snuggly in a baby harness strapped around his body.

But on Tuesday it was all about Brown and fans celebrating his life the one way they knew how.

They sang.

Ricky Blue, of Newark, was down on one knee in front of the ladies, singing his heart out to "Brick House" by the Commodores.

McNair let it all hang out with "At Last,'' by Etta James.

At one point, the people chanted Brown's name - "Go Isaac, go Isaac,'' to a House Music cut.

Then everyone lost it emotionally when they heard a moving gospel song, "Never Would Have Made It'' by Marvin Sapp.

Brown would have approved. He always ended Karaoke night on a spiritual note, singing "Something About the Name of Jesus,'' to uplift the crowd.

If you were not able to say goodbye last Tuesday, there's one last chance. Brown's viewing is Friday, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Calvary Baptist Church, 66 South Grove St., East Orange. The funeral begins at 11 a.m.

Rest in song, Sir Isaac. Rest in song.

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