On January 15, 1956, reggae and dancehall musician, songwriter, and deejay William Foster, who is better known by his stage name Yellowman, was born in Kingston, Jamaica. The artist had a hard start in life, being abandoned by his parents and growing up in the Maxfield Children’s Home and the Alpha Boys School in Kingston. Because of his albinism, he experienced prejudice socially, but his musical abilities were recognized at Alpha Boys School, which has a tradition of producing musical alumni.
Yellowman first gained attention in the late 1970s when he came in second behind Nadine Sutherland in the Tastee Talent Contest in 1978. Like other deejays in Jamaica, he gained experienced by performing at outdoor sound-system events, especially with Aces International. Yellowman found success as a recording artist and worked with producer Henry “Junjo” Lawes in 1981. Yellowman was quite popular in Jamaica and became the first dancehall artist to sign with a major record level, Columbia Records that was based in the United States.
Yellowman’s first album was released in 1982. It was called “Mister Yellowman” and was followed in 1983 by “Zungguzungguguzungguzeng,” which brought him considerable success. His lyrics, which were suggestive and provocative, and popular songs like “Them a Mad Over Me” resulted in some controversy and criticism in the mid 1980s. Yellowman was puzzled by this reception to his songs, saying that he was only talking about reality.
In 1983, Yellowman appeared in “Jamaican Dancehall Volcano Hi-power,” which also featured major dancehall musicians like Massive Dread, Josey Wales, Buju Banton and Eek-A-Mouse. In the early 80s, he had over 40 singles and was producing as many as five albums per year. In 1987, his version of “Blueberry Hill” hit the top of the charts for a number of weeks in Jamaica. By the middle of the 1990s, Yellowman began to release socially conscious material and rose to international stardom along with artists like Buju Banton. He was the most popular deejay in Jamaica.
His 1994 album “Prayer” marked a reinvention of his music as it moved away from the provocative and suggestive lyrics of his earlier songs. The albums “New York” in 2003 and “Round 1” in 2006 solidified his new approach. Yellowman was a featured vocalist on “Rock Rap Reggae” by Run-DMC. During his career, he recorded under several different labels, including, Columbia Records, CBS Records, Greensleeves, Artist Only, VP Records, RAS Records.
Yellowman still performs around the world with his Sagittarius Band, giving concerts in Nigeria, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Germany, the UK, France, Kenya, the US, and Canada. He had a featured spot on OPM’s album “Forthemasses” in 2004. In 2018, it was announced that Yellowman would receive the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) from the Jamaican government.
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