Yabby You: Mystic man


By Howard Campbell
Observer senior reporter

Saturday, February 24, 2018

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With February acknowledged as Reggae Month, the Jamaica Observer salutes some of the music's unsung heroes in this daily column.

When Yabby You died in 2010 not many outside the close-knit roots-reggae fraternity knew about him or the impressive cache of spiritual music he left behind. The songs and albums he recorded are recognised by purists as being among the best in reggae.

Yabby You (real name Vivian Jackson) overcame severe malnutrition in his teens and began recording in the early 1970s with legendary engineer/producer Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock. Backed by musicians named The Prophets (core members being bassist Aston “Familyman” Barrett, guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith and drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace), they released a number of powerful songs such as Conquering Lion, Love of Jah, and Warn The Nation.

Those singles were compiled for the Deeper Roots and Deeper Roots 2 albums released by British company Pressure Sounds in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

The Pressure Sounds albums capture Yabby You at his creative best. They contain songs that won him a faithful audience throughout Europe, where he toured sporadically due to his fragile health.

In 2015, American independent company Shanachie Records released Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You, a three-CD retrospective of his work. In its review of the project, the trendy Pitchfork website hailed Yabby You as “one of reggae's great unheralded figures, a deeply spiritual man who rarely performed live and faced physical challenges but left a musical catalogue so intriguing that five years after his death it's still being absorbed”.

Yabby You belongs to a group of reggae mystic men that also includes Count Ossie, Ras Michael, Oku Onuora, Augustus Pablo, and I Jahman Levi. But though he wore dreadlocks and considered himself a Rastafarian, he recognised Jesus Christ, and not Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I, as the Supreme Being.

Those beliefs earned him the nickname Jesus Rasta.

Like Count Ossie, Ras Michael and Pablo, Yabby You worked with younger artistes and helped expose them through his Prophet Records label. Singers Michael Prophet, Wayne Wade and Patrick Andy are some of the acts he mentored.

Vivian “Yabby You” Jackson was 63 years old when he died of an aneurysm.

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