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Hear Yeasayer’s Dubby ‘Henrietta,’ Get the Story Behind the Track

A new Yeasayer song has surfaced online, and it’s not just any Yeasayer song. In fact, “Henrietta” — which We All Want Someone to Shout For reports was shipped on physical CD to fans on the Brooklyn psych rockers’ mailing list — happens to be keyboardist-singer Chris Keating’s personal favorite of the tracks from the band’s upcoming third album. Or so Keating told SPIN last fall, explaining that the track was inspired by reading about Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose rare form of cancer gave her a posthumous role in major medical breakthroughs like the polio vaccine.

As promised, the track is a “dubbed-out pseudo-science-fiction song,” wringing drama out of the remarkable fact that Lacks’ cells still continue to live on after her death. After beginning with an ambling, synth-stabbed reggae feel and relatively clear-eyed lyrics about Lacks’ incredible story, the track takes a strange turn about halfway through, as percussion drops out and funereal keyboards chime. “Oh, Henrietta / We can live on forever,” Keating sings sweetly after the beat returns, repeating his mantra as if into infinity. What might be most amazing is that when it comes to Lacks’ unique case, he’s actually not being hyperbolic.

A title and release date remain to be announced for the follow-up to 2010’s Odd Blood, which Keating told SPIN will be “like a demented R&B record,” but the band recently revealed a set of summer tour dates. The band will also be stopping by at least a few festivals. Check out Yeasayer’s schedule below while pondering how cancer, in one woman’s case, really turned out to be part of a cure.

Yeasayer tour dates:
June 19 – Richmond, VA @ The National
June 20 – Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
June 21 – Knoxville, TN @ Bijou Theatre
June 22 – Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom
June 23 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall
June 24 – Cincinnati, OH @ 20th Century Theatre
July 4-7 – Gdyina, PL @ Open’er Festival
July 12-15 – Suffolk, UK @ Latitude Festival
July 13-15 – Ferropolis, DE @ Melt! Festival
August 3 – Montreal, QC @ Osheaga