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Vivian Jackson (14 August 1946 – 12 January 2010), better known as Yabby You (or sometimes Yabby U), was a reggaevocalist and producer, who came to prominence in the early 1970s through his uncompromising, self-produced work.
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Jackson was born in the Waterhouse district of Kingston, Jamaica in 1946. One of seven children, Jackson left home at the age of twelve to find work at a furnace in Waterhouse. At seventeen, the effects of malnutrition had left him hospitalized, and on his release he was left with severe arthritis which had partially crippled his legs. His physical condition meant that he was unable to return to his previous work, and he was forced into hustling a living on the streets of Kingston.
His beliefs were markedly different from that of his Rastafarian contemporaries, believing in the divinity of Jesus rather than Haile Selassie I, earning him the nickname 'Jesus Dread'; This often prompted debate on religio-philosophical matters, and it was after one of these discussions that Jackson first headed towards a recording studio, having heard music "like a strange ting, inside a my thoughts - like an angel a sing".
Another spell in hospital meant that finding money for recording was difficult, but eventually the "Conquering Lion" single was released late in 1972, credited to 'Vivian Jackson and the Ralph Brothers'. Cut for King Tubby, the popularity of the song and its distinctive introduction (the chant of "Be-you, yabby-yabby-you") earned Jackson the nickname "Yabby You", which has remained with him during his entire career.
The next few months saw the recording of several more singles, released under different names on various record labels, (although usually credited to 'Vivian Jackson and the Prophets', and often featuring a King Tubby 'version' on the b-side); culminating in the release of the Conquering Lionalbum. A King Tubby mixed dub set, King Tubby's Prophesy of Dub, was also issued, albeit on a limited run of 500 copies, helping to establish Jackson as a roots artist.
Jackson continued to record, produce and perform (often with the aid of crutches) until the mid-1980s. He re-emerged in the early 1990s, issuing both new and old material, and his recordings have been the subject of several high quality reissues in recent years. In 2000 he released a singles remix project with Glen Brown. The album included remixes of "Conquering Lion" by Smith and Mighty, and a remix of Glen Brown by Small Axe and Terminal Head.
As reported by Midnight Raver on April 1, 2014, Shanachie Records will release a commemorative Yabby You 3-CD box set in 2014. Shanachie Records chief Randall Grass explained in an interview with the website:
“I want this to be a real statement of Yabby You’s greatness. I want to speak to more than just the real hardcore fan who’s looking for the rarest stuff.
It is a 3-disc set. The first disc is called “CLASSICS” and nothing on that is really rare. I tracked it like I would a DJ set when I used to do radio you know, just one fantastic cut after another. My hope is that anyone who listens to it whether they know yabby’s music or whether they never heard him before will say ‘Oh My God’ you know? The second disc I’ve tentatively titled “THE MANY MOODS OF YABBY YOU” and it includes some stuff from Fleeing From The City, a love song ‘Stranger In Love’, and some stuff he produced for other artists like Michael Prophet, Wayne Wade, Half Pint, Patrick Andy, Trinity, and also some instrumentals and dubs. The third disc will contain “RARITIES” unreleased stuff, and some stuff that has been released but is very obscure. One track by The Prophets titled ‘Give Thanks and Praise’ I had never heard although the dub is on the Beware Dub release. I even asked Yabby and he didn’t remember. I found out through You Tube that Ton van Arnhem had it and he ended up gifting it to me which was just incredible and a really beautiful thing.”
On August 14, 2014, Shanachie Records announced through Midnight Raver their plans to release a Willi Williams/Yabby You project titled "Unification: From Channel One To King Tubbys With Willi Williams And Yabby You,' which includes tracks recorded in the late seventies and never released. According to label chief Randall Grass, the album was recorded between 1978 and 1980 at both fabled Channel One studio and King Tubby’s studio, utilizing a diverse group of top-shelf Jamaican musicians, including Sly & Robbie and the Revolutionaries, Soul Syndicate, The Gladiators, Jackie Mitoo, Bobby Ellis, Cedric “IM” Brooks and Bobby Kalphat.