Published Jan 14, 2010Roots reggae has lost one of its great auteurs with the passing of Vivian "Yabby You" Jackson . Details are not clear, but according to Reggae Vibes, Jackson suffered a "head stroke" on Tuesday (January 12) in Jamaica and died at 11 p.m. that night. ReggaeFrance.com elaborates on the cause of death as a ruptured aneurysm. He was 63.
Jackson was known for a highly personal perspective on Rastafarianism and well-crafted rhythms complemented by superior dub mixing. After struggling as a youth and supporting himself by picking racehorse winners, he eventually scraped enough cash together to enter the studio in 1971 to direct a group of musicians and record an original rhythm. It was almost another full year until he could afford to cut a vocal to the music, but when "Conquering Lion" was released in late 1972, it was a substantial hit in the increasingly Rasta-centric roots reggae movement that had emerged.
Jackson's idiosyncratic vocals were somewhere between country and gospel, and his lyrics drew deeply from Biblical sources. Unusually, despite being Rastafarian, he sang with Christian terminology in his music. For example, "God" instead of "Jah" was frequently, though not exclusively, used.
Jackson released the masterful Conquering Lion album in 1975, featuring contributions from King Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry. He began producing other artists around this point as well, working with vocalists Wayne Wade and Michael Rose and DJs Trinity, Dillinger and Jah Stitch.
The late '70s was his most successful period, and his music saw acclaim in the UK (Deliver Me From My Enemies, 1978). He also had some notoriety as reggae expanded further into the U.S. following Bob Marley's passing in 1981, recording steadily until mid-decade.
Jackson suffered from poor health. He was debilitated by arthritis from an early age, and as he got older, he had to use crutches in order to perform.
In the '90s, his recordings were heavily reissued, including the superior double disc set Jesus Dread on England's Blood and Fire Records, one of their most ambitious undertakings. He was acknowledged for his careful productions, doom-laden lyrics and willingness to have King Tubby bring out the best in his rhythms.
One of Jackson's final album credits came last year on Canadian singer Willi Williams's Di Real Rock, which featured songs co-written and produced by Jackson.