Yellowman is a legend of Jamaican music. He helped to establish the new style of dancehall toasting in the early ‘80s, gaining popularity for both his musical excellence and relatable, hilarious lyrics. Yellowman’s story is as fascinating as his music is great. Raised in an orphanage, he was also born with albinism, which was highly stigmatized at the time in Jamaica. Rising to fame despite discrimination, Yellowman suffered yet more adversity, as he developed cancer at the height of his popularity. A doctor told him that he only had three more years to live in 1983, but over 30 years later he still has the magnetic charisma that he was known for in his heyday. We are extremely excited about his performance tonight, Aug. 26, at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square. In anticipation of that show, we’ve put together a list of five classic Yellowman tracks.
1. “Yellowman Getting Married”
“Yellowman Getting Married” comes from 1982’s Mister Yellowman, one of the first hugely popular dancehall albums. Yellowman worked on the record with prolific producer Henry “Junjo” Lawes and his studio band Roots Radics. On “Yellowman Getting Married,” Yellowman demonstrates serious lyrical versatility, along with his trademark sense of humor. He opens by playing both bride and groom before toasting sincerely about getting married over a slow grooving riddim. Perhaps most impressively, he takes a line from Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me,” singing emotionally, “If you ever change your mind about leaving leaving me behind, bring it to me…”
“Pon-Wee-Line” comes out of a longtime collaboration with another early toaster, Fathead. The two performers’ styles complement each other, as Fathead interjects ribbits and “bim”s in between Yellowman’s more accomplished toasting. The song is off another early dancehall classic, Bad Boy Skanking, which boasts one of the best covers in a genre full of them, with both artists wearing fantastic hats and gesturing at each other to signal their camaraderie.
3. “Bedroom Mazuka”
While “Yellowman Getting Married” showcased Yellowman’s sensitive side, “Bedroom Mazuka” is firmly on the raunchy side of his lyrics. Though Yellowman might be fairly accused of sexism for many songs over the course of his career, there is no denying the sheer entertainment value of tracks like this.
Another wildly explicit track, “Shorties” also makes reference to STDs in a rather ambivalent manner. Lyrics aside, “Shorties” is another fantastic laid-back Yellowman track.
5. “Money Make Friend”
“Money Make Friend” begins with Yellowman invoking God before toasting, “It’s just money to bring Yellow here, just money to buy Yellow beer.” It’s another amusing Yellowman track that also deals with the problems of money: “Money make friend, money break friend.” The song is off 1985’s Galong Galong, which features backing from the legendary rhythm section Sly and Robbie.
These songs are but a taste of Yellowman’s brilliance, so come out with us to BB King’s tonight to see a truly great performer on stage!