Yabby You - Deeper Roots 2

Walls of Jerusalem - Vivian Jackson & The Prophets
Thirty Pieces of Silver - Yabby You & The Prophets
Sipping I & I Chalice - Vivian Jackson & The Prophets
I & I Chalice Version - Vivian Jackson & The Prophets
Man of the Living - Wayne Wade and The Prophets
Psalm 16 - The Prophets Allstars
Chant Down Babylon Kingdom - Yabby You & The Prophets
Chant Down Babylon Version - The Prophets Allstars
Stop Your Quarreling - Yabby You & The Prophets
Stop Your Quarreling version - The Prophets Allstars
Outside The City Walls - The Prophets Allstars
Jah Vengeance - Vivian Jackson & The Sons of Jah
I Can't Hide - Tony Tuff & The Prophets
I Can't Hide version - The Prophet Allstars
Time Changing - Samuel Patterson
Mash Down - The Prophets Allstars

Anyone who had ever come into contact with Yabby You was unlikely to forget him. In the words of songwriter Bill Callahan he was "hard to get to know and near impossible to forget".

Our first meeting was a rollercoaster. I was in Kingston with Junior Delgado and various friends all for differing reasons. I had come to see Bunny Lee and other Jamaican producers. But as usual in Kingston things always took a left turn and you ended up spending time with many different kinds of characters.

Yabby had heard I was in town and was keen to come over and see me. He was residing in Clarendon, which was a fair trip to make on his part. We had had various telephone conversations previously and he was eager to license us some of his catalogue. He had already sent me things to listen to on assorted CDs and tapes. He came over to where we were staying in the early evening. First words out of his mouth totally took me by surprise. No greetings or hello's he was straight down to business. "Did you know Bob Marley was the devil"? I thought "This is going to be interesting".

He laid out his reasoning in spectacular fashion. There were various Old Testament parables and biblical quotations, which I am sure, were very accurate. He then moved on to the subject of slavery and Jamaica and finally asked what I thought about various tracks he had sent me. My first impression of him was that he partially reminded me of various family members who liked a good wind up. I had grown up in the North of England and my family was basically of Irish Catholic extraction. The 'Craic' was often evident in my early home life. I had various uncles and relatives who could walk into a room and try to get a reaction by saying things they thought were provocative or outrageous.

Yabby had been with me for an hour or so when things took another unpredictable turn. DJs Trinity and Jah Stitch unexpectedly turned up, emerging from the back of the guest house in Liguanea. How they had got past the gate man without letting anyone know was a mystery. A row immediately broke out between the three of them over money and in particular between Stitch and Yabby. They were hard at it in no time. Trinity had a world weariness with it all and as Yabby launched into a religious sermon Trinity abruptly cut him off with a sharp "don't start with all that again". I like Trinity who I had met in London and now and again in Kingston and he always came across as a very level and sensible character. Jah Stitch and Yabby kind of squared up to each other (as best they could as neither were in great shape) and I tried to get between them. The landlady turned up and started to lecture al of us for the noise and bad language that was flying about. She took me to one side and said "when we hear that talk we get this" and made the shape of a gun in her hand.

At this point Adrian Sherwood wandered in as he had been having a sleep upstairs. The noise had woken him and as he started to shake hands with everyone I suggested we all to the studio and meet up with Junior Delgado!! It was a way of placating the security that had now turned up with some serious looking hardware. Yabby was convinced I had invited Trinity and Stitch as a set up so they could quiz him about royalties of an album he released with another label. He was not often in Kingston. Consequently he was quite difficult to contact face to face. Trinity had soon had enough of the shenanigans and decided to leave. Stitch and Yabby came to the studio with us and about 5 in the morning were still reasoning in the corridor and enjoying a smoke. There you have in a nutshell much of the character of the Jamaican music business. things go the edge and then come back to 'reasoning'.

During the session, although not directly involved Yabby was witty insightful and unpredictable. You could sense he was very happy in the studio environment. I liked him enormously. He would argue a point with his own internal logic. Part preacher, part racetrack hustler and part visionary record producer. He could play up to any of these characters if he needed to. His knowledge of the Bible was astounding. It was obviously more than just his guiding light. At one point I could see he was having difficulty trying to stand up and was in pain from his legs. I went and got him an ashtray as I could see that was what he needed to rest his spliff. He told a funny story about good Samaritans and was very charming.

He loved and hated the Kingston environment in equal measure. It was clearly where the musical action was and yet he also saw Kingston as full of vice. He was enjoying smoking ganja and cigarettes and yet blamed it on the fact he was back in the studio hanging with the musical fraternity.

I don't know this as a fact but I could sense his situation with his physical ailments had quite possibly ostracised him from his own community. You had to be a 'whole man' to enter Zion according to Rasta philosophy. This I think had helped to push Yabby out to the margins. His religious beliefs had been tailored to his own needs and circumstances. On more than one occasion I had been reminded that Yabby was not going to the same Zion as others. That Yabby was a 'cultist' given to deep spirituality so as to be able to control others around him. Yabby's beliefs fuelled endless debate amongst the musical fraternity which had frequently turned fractious. He seemed to enjoy being an outsider and reveled in being contrary. He liked to take people on with his religious knowledge and argument in long verbal clashes. These discussions seemed to provoke Yabby into a very creative mode from which many of his best songs stemmed.

Like so many with a poor start in life he was making sense of a world that was harsh and unfair in the only way he knew how. With his wits and his force of personality. Initially as a race track hustler and then on to work at a foundry where the extreme heat from the furnace and sleeping outside in the elements had given him a bad case of arthritis. This mixed with malnutrition had withered his legs and caused his body to wilt. He walked with difficulty and sometimes later in life with the aid of walking sticks. It was no easy feat to survive in Jamaica at the best of times and given his severe disability his spirit and resolution was what got him through.

The music that had poured out of Yabby from 1972 onwards as either a singer or producer was deeply felt. He was never Jamaica's greatest singer yet his music was filled with an authenticity and spirituality that was second to none. Always striving to get his ideas out and mostly with limited funds he lived much of his life on the edge.

His music was relentless in its content or old world biblical prophecy. Melodically original his material was enhanced by some of King Tubby's and Prince Jammy's best mixing. This was potent stuff. Not for the faint hearted and all the time informed by Yabby's often contentious lyrics "Me never see such a thing before dem a favour sheep them a anti-Christ" I can remember the first time I heard his records. They had left a deep and everlasting impression. Just exactly what was this music about? To my young curious mind it was extremely attractive. It sounds obvious to say but what made Yabby's music so captivating was that its complexity stemmed from his very individual point of view. You could not have made up a more compelling idiosyncratic  personality. In a country that is full of character, Yabby You had a big character.

Out on the periphery of the Jamaican music fraternity and full of contradictions. He was troubled, talented and driven. He was everything that you wanted from an artist. Although he was not always fair with his fellow musicians. He often refused to credit others contributions to his own music. Cultivating a personality that set him outside the mainstream of the Jamaican music business. I loved his contradictions. He was never going along just for the ride.

Nothing is straightforward in a country that has supposedly more churches per capita than anywhere else in the western world. Jamaica has a unique community. A rich mixture of African traditions blended with Protestant fundamentalism, piracy and a brutal slave legacy. All these elements have converged to produce a very vibrant society. The conventional is mixed with the unconventional and what is fused together is unorthodox. Religion and music are deeply interwoven into the culture. It's this very particular environment that has produced Vivian Jackson and ultimately Yabby You.

The music on the album is not perhaps the full picture. more of a sketch than the complete works but if it helps to fill in some of the gaps that still in Yabby's catalogue, then it will be worthwhile.

Yabby's hopefully gone to a better place than the Kingston ghetto that he was born into. A complex rambunctious talented individual that grasped life with both hands shook it and threw it up in the air. those of us who caught some of it were lucky. Those of us who got to spend time with him were blessed. his music lives on.

Pete Holdsworth - 2014

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