Yabby You, 1946-2010

Words By Jesse Serwer

Had it happened any other week, more might have been said about the passing of ’70s reggae pioneer Yabby You last Tuesday. But that was the same day the earthquake hit Haiti. News of his death from a brain aneurysm, meanwhile, became public just as word about Teddy Pendergrass was spreading two days later. Call it the Farrah Fawcett effect.

While we didn’t see that widespread acknowledgment that sends scores of new listeners out in search of a recently deceased artist’s music, tributes to the late singer/producer have turned up in the usual places, like this Jamaica Gleaner obit by Basil Walters.

Like most people my introduction to Yabby came through “Conquering Lion,” the classic 1972 single, and eventual roots reggae compilation staple, he recorded while still known by his birth name, Vivian Jackson. (His pseudonym was derived from that track’s refrain, “Be you, yabby yabby you”). Despite his locks, he was a devout Christian—hence the nickname “Jesus Dread.” That’s also the name of a double-disc compilation of his output from 1972 to 1977 released by the Blood & Fire label in 1997. Here’s a sampler of tracks from that release (which is probably the best overview of his output) starting with the haunting “Deliver Me From My Enemies.”