Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry Talks Bob Marley, Dub, Reggae, Production
Berklee Online’s Pat Healy talks with 84-year-old Lee “Scratch” Perry about his one-of-a-kind legacy and career. This bizarre and winding interview is available in all its strangeness and entirety at Hypebot.com
Pat Healy: “As a music producer, he arguably invented reggae in the late 1960s and early 70s, and he inarguably invented dub in the mid-1970s at his famed Black Ark Studio in Jamaica. He was Bob Marley’s mentor, producing some of his first recordings. It’s possible he also invented sampling, using the sound of a crying baby to begin his song “People Funny Boy” in 1968, a scathing song against one of his rival producers.” Scratch has collaborated with the Clash, Beastie Boys, George Clinton, and Keith Richards, among others.
The conversation that follows takes a lot of twists and turns and some of his answers were so different from the questions asked. So, to help, the writer* interrupts every now and then to provide context. For example….
PH: You grew up with what, four siblings?
LP: Yeah, I grew up with revolution. *PH: So yeah, he grew up with revolution. Okay, back to the interview … LP: I grew up with revolution in my brain, revolution in my leg, and revolution in my head.
Were there songs in your family before you went off to Kingston, music that you liked? Well, I liked “Charlie Brown,” like pop music. Yeah, I was loving pop music and [songs like, “Yakety Yak” by the Coasters] “Take out those papers and the trash, or you won’t get no spending cash.” I am a lover of pop music. So I reckon my number one spot is Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson? You’d been recording for years before you heard him, right? Well, I love stars that are uncommon. I’m really a pop music lover. I really love hip-hop music. I love hip-hop music even more than reggae music. Reggae music is okay. I love the American artists, them so much because the American artists have super very good voice [laughs]. So I was always listening to good singers. I love good singers; I love real singers. I watched Bob Marley in that duration before reggae becomes so common. So, most of the stars that I have put up were coming from the American singers. You know what I mean? So, I mean to say if you want to hear about something like “Me love Jamaica because they’re my people,” but they actually are too nice to me and they’re like raggamuffin, and me no like raggamuffin. Me like special artists. James Brown is my friend [laughs].
James Brown? Yeah, was my friend.
Yeah Rolling Stones are my friend. I don’t like to see what will happen to the Americans because most of the American singers, I learned from them and I love them. I don’t know what will happen to the good singers in America to find a way out, to find freedom, because if all of the American singers die, I will cry.
Yeah, I mean singers are our last shot. It will be too boring without the American singers.
*PH: Okay, here is the first interruption! So, at this point, he is talking about how he’d be sad if all of the American singers died because he is referring back to a theory that he revealed when our conversation first started, that the coronavirus is affecting America so badly now because the American government gave Bob Marley cancer. Are you following? He is actually not the only one to believe the second part of this. Most biographers of Bob Marley will acknowledge that there was definitely a suspicious amount of interest the FBI and CIA had in the reggae superstar, and that the agency considered him a threat. Maybe he would inspire a great uprising? Maybe his songs were too political. Most biographers will acknowledge that yes, there is at least some credible evidence that the American government had something to do with the 1978 assassination attempt against Bob Marley, but there is little credible evidence to support the theory that a device the American government had placed in Bob Marley’s shoe caused the cancer that killed him in 1981. However, there are some people who believe that. Lee “Scratch” Perry seems to be one of those people. And he also seems to believe that the virus is karmic retribution.
LP: American scientists and American Obeah men and American beasts gave Bob Marley cancer, in a year. They gave Bob Marley cancer and them could not find the answer. Why did they give Bob Marley cancer? If they give Bob Marley cancer, then Bob Marley give them the virus [laughs].
Excerpt from new oral history ‘So Much Things to Say’ tells the story of harrowing 1976 ambush at Tuff Gong By Roger Steffens (What follows is an excerpt from a Rolling Stone, July 7, 2017, article, edited for size)
Roger Steffens:Friday, December 3, dawned hot and humid. Members of the Wailers Band gathered at Tuff Gong late that afternoon to rehearse for the upcoming concert.
Judy Mowatt: I had a vision a few days before the shooting. Marcia left; she didn’t feel too good about that concert. Like she had a premonition that something could happen, or she heard something and she left the island. Rita and myself had been going to rehearsals. So one night I went to my bed and I dreamt that this rooster, it was a rooster with three chickens, and the rooster got shot, and the shot ricocheted and damaged two of the chickens. I even saw like one of the chicken’s tripe inside, the intestines come out. And I didn’t like it, and I told it to Rita and Rita knew about it. But we were looking out for something. Because usually, how the Africa woman understands, a lot of times we depend on our dreams. We know that when you dream, if it’s not so, it’s close to what it is. So we were expecting something to happen. And then again, I went to my bed. I never mentioned this – but I went to my bed again and I saw in the newspaper where Bob sang that song “Smile Jamaica” and that was the song that created a controversy because of certain lyrics that he had in it that was like a then political slogan: Regardless, you control your state of being, so smile, because the power’s ours. The victory’s ours.
Roger Steffens: The forebodings came true in the midst of rehearsals around 8:30 in the evening. Two white Datsun compacts drove through the gates of Tuff Gong, from which the longtime guards had mysteriously disappeared. The exact number of gunmen who came leaping out, guns blazing, is a subject of controversy. There could have been as many as seven or eight, armed with machine guns and pistols, some reportedly containing homemade bullets. They went room to room, often firing wildly. Continue reading →
Since 1958, the GRAMMYs have celebrated music excellence. It is the music community’s highest honor & its only peer-based award.
The GRAMMY is awarded to musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, & industry professionals.
Inside Jamaica’s Reggae community, there’s always much discussion about the USA GRAMMY Awards, especially the highly coveted Best Reggae Album Award.
Ever since the first Reggae GRAMMY went to Black Uhuru in 1985 (when it was called Best Reggae Recording), there’s been dissension in the Reggae family, along with confusion, arguments, debates, & disagreements surrounding why someone was nominated…or why not.
Let’s start with some facts: currently, there are 30 fields (General, Pop, Rock, Reggae, etc.) to be considered, as well as 84 distinct award categories across those fields. The Reggae category is for “an album containing at least 51% playing time of new Reggae recordings.”
To be clear, I am not an Academy member or a Reggae GRAMMY expert. However, I join others who are interested in how the “final five” selection comes about. So, I set out to educate myself & now I can share what I’ve learned with you.
What follows is information on the Recording Academy, how to join, & the GRAMMY Nomination process. Academy links are provided for more info. I truly hope this helps answer the countless questions as to how, when, who, and why a Reggae album ultimately acquires this sought-after recognition.
FIRSTLY – JOIN THE ACADEMY
Like the GRAMMY Awards, Recording Academy membership is community-driven & peer-reviewed on an annual cycle. Pay attention to the dates & deadlines!
You must be invited to join. To be considered for an invitation:
Your profile is completed only after your recommendations are received by the Academy & you tell them more about your career.* Profiles must be complete by midnight on March 1 to be considered for that year’s class. *Candidates will receive an email with a link & candidate code to complete their career profile.
New member submissions are considered by the Recording Academy’s Peer Review Panel each spring, & will approve memberships at its sole discretion after assessing your submission.
If approved by Peer Review, candidates are invited to join the Recording Academy by July 9 and have until that year’s GRAMMY Awards voting deadline to accept.
Who can enter recordings for consideration? Do I qualify?
The Recording Academy accepts entries online from Professional & Voting Members, as well as registered media companies. Members are permitted to submit their own eligible recordings as well as the recordings of their peers for consideration.
How do media companies submit product for GRAMMY consideration?
Record labels, distribution companies & management firms qualify as media companies. Media companies must register with the Recording Academy every year to submit/enter recordings. Once your media company registration has been confirmed, the Awards department will send the media company’s designated administrator detailed submission instructions. More Academy FAQ’s here.
“The Reggae GRAMMY Category does need some change. But change won’t happen if Reggae artists are on the menu…but NOT at the table.” ~Barbara Johnson, Media Exec
Read This Interesting Committee Background
I highly recommend you read this clip from a 2014 article by friend, writer & major Dancehall & Reggae enthusiast ROB “Boomshots” KENNER. He tells of his experience as an Academy Screening Committee member while raising a few very interesting questions. (More on the process below.)
ROB: “[The] screening committee goes through every single album that had been submitted—usually by record labels, but sometimes by members of the Recording Academy. (In a category like reggae, where much of the music is produced by smaller independent labels who may not be familiar with the GRAMMY entry process, the best records are sometimes not even submitted.)
“Members of that committee were not supposed to concern ourselves with quality—our job was to determine whether each album belonged in the reggae category. The rules stated that 51% of the album’s tracks had to consist of reggae music (a genre that includes such disparate styles as roots reggae, ska, dub, and dancehall.)
“…Famous people tend to get more votes from clueless Academy members, regardless of the quality of their work.”
“…Famous people tend to get more votes from clueless Academy members, regardless of the quality of their work. This is especially true in specialized categories like reggae…That’s the reason why famous names like Marley, Toots, and Sly & Robbie stand a much better chance of winning in the reggae category than, say,Beres Hammond.
[Rob soon paid his membership fee and joined the Recording Academy as a voting member. His story continues:] “Here’s how the process works: Voting members review lists of all the eligible recordings in each category (the ones generated by screening committees like mine.)
“Members are supposed to vote only in their fields of expertise—and in a maximum of 9 out of the 31 fields on the ballot… A few categories are reserved for special nominating committees, but frankly—not enough… In the final voting process, members are allowed to vote in even more categories—up to 20, plus the 4 general categories.
“Bottom line: the vast majority of the nominations are chosen by people who have little real expertise in a given field. I refrained from voting in heavy metal and classical because I know very little about those genres. But I could have if I wanted to, and that strikes me as a problem.” Read Rob’s entire 2014 Complex.com article here.
“We don’t need a dancehall category…that would set us back…people are being fooled about separating dancehall from reggae…We’re always trying to create something instead of focusing on what we have and building that.” ~Ibo Cooper, JaRia
NOW, HERE’S THE PROCESS…
It begins with members & record companies submitting entries, which are then screened for eligibility and category placement. The Academy’s voting members, all involved in the creative & technical processes of recording, then participate in (1) the nominating process that determines the five finalists in each category; & (2) the final voting process which determines the GRAMMY winners.
After review by 350 experts in various fields, the screening committee places the album in its proper category. No artistic or technical judgments about the recordings are made. The entries move on to the nominating committee.
First-round ballots are sent to voting members in good dues standing. To help ensure the quality of the voting, members are directed to vote only in their areas of expertise; they may vote in up to 15 categories in the genre fields plus the four categories of the General Field (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, & Best New Artist.) Ballots are tabulated by the independent accounting firm of Deloitte.
FINAL VOTING (Note: This is where I’m a little confused. The Reggae category is not sent to a Nominations Review Committee–see graphic below–before the final vote. The Reggae nominees selected from the first nominating committee go right to final vote, with no review. Maybe someone reading this can explain it to us.)Final-round ballots are then sent to voting members in good dues standing. In this final round, Recording Academy members may vote in up to 15 categories in the genre fields plus the four categories of the General Field.
So good people, that’s how it’s done!
More Helpful Info:
Key Dates for 2020-2021
Sept. 1, 2019—Aug. 31, 2020: Product Eligibility Period
Sept. 30—Oct. 12, 2020: First-Round Voting—eligible members vote to determine the 2021 nominees!
Nov. 24: Nominations Announcement!
Dec. 7, 2020—Jan. 4, 202: Final-Round Voting—this round determines the GRAMMY winners!
You will notice that any terms that include the word urban* have been removed from category titles. The Recording Academy stated in November 2020 “that describing music as ‘urban’ and ‘urban contemporary’ has ‘historically been used as a way to separate Black artists’ from the (white) artistic mainstream.” *Exception, one Latin category… go figure.
Other changes announced involve Best New Artist parameters & taking a closer look at all possible conflicts of interest.
Interestingly, “the Academy members who serve on its so-called nomination reviews committees, which determine the final nominees in most award categories, must disclose any connections they have to potentially nominated artists and projects.”
“Two glaring disclosures only now being asked are: (1) Do you have any “immediate family ties” to a potential nominee? And (2) Will you as a voter, have any “direct or indirect financial ties” to a project or artist under consideration?”
But, as with all vague changes & GRAMMY nominations, there are questions, controversies, and contention.
LASTLY – ABOUT PROMOTION
Labels, artists & media companies are welcome to promote their album but must follow these Voting & Solicitation Guidelines, i.e., voters may not accept money or anything of value for a vote, no agreement to trade votes, & voters must not be influenced in any other way other than their own analysis of merit.
I hope this helps you understand the GRAMMY Awards nomination & voting process. If you like this info or have a question, say so in the comments below.
The 1st Reggae Report Small Axe Awards & Show! And sadly, the only Awards show that featured winners that were voted for by the fans and readers of Reggae Report – Oct. 25, 1986 – Konover Hotel Theater, Miami Beach, FL
Update 2020: I have video of this unique awards show. It’s ready to be edited in iMovie. If anyone has iMovie skills & would like to advise me on how to make a decent video out of crazy footage & some bad sound, please reach out to me at email@example.com. 1Luv ~MPeggyQ
Spragga Benz’s Son, Carlton Grant, Jr., Killed by Kingston Police
Article and Photo by Brittany Somerset
Sept. 5, 2008 Kingston, Jamaica – A source in Jamaica, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, spoke exclusively to Brittany Somerset about the tragic, untimely demise of 17-year-old Carlton “Carlie” Grant, Jr, son of Reggae veteran Spragga Benz, who was allegedly murdered by police in downtown Kingston, late in the evening on August 23, 2008.
It’s reported that at approximately 11:50 p.m., Carlie and a friend were leaving a video game rental store on the corner of Church and East Queen St. The friend begins, “Carlie was stopped on his bicycle while coming from the store with a teenage friend. Police stopped him and told him to get off his bike, and he obeyed. He identified himself. He said, ‘I’m Spragga Benz’s son.’ The police smirked as if in disbelief. They did not think Spragga’s son would be in the ghetto, but he was visiting family. The police fired one shot into the air, and told them to run. Carlie’s friend took off running. Carlie stayed where he was, with his hands in the air. One of the policemen whispered something to a second officer, and the officer then shot him at point blank range in the face. They executed him. All reports of Carlie having a gun, firing at police, or running, are completely false. Carlie stayed at the scene, and declared himself. After they shot him once in the face, and when he collapsed to the ground, he was shot a second time. This was murder.” Continue reading →
(promo release) Set amongst the Reggae scene of late 70s Jamaica, the film Rockers achieved instant cult status among music and cinema fans. Rockers’ director, Ted Bafaloukos, has received many accolades for his work on the film, but the fact that he was also a fine writer and undercover photographer is often overlooked. Bafaloukos penned this vivid autobiography in 2005 and passed in 2016.
Beyond Bafaloukos’ fascinating story of the “making-of” Rockers, it tells the tale of a Greek immigrant from a family of sailors and his move to New York, eventually rubbing shoulders with the likes of The Velvet Underground, Robert Frank, Jessica Lange and Philippe “Man on Wire” Petit. But there’s a twist to this 1970s’ New York story: Bafaloukos fell in love with Reggae when it was still just an underground facet of Jamaican culture in the City. Continue reading →
I’d like to introduce three island beauties who are taking the musical landscape by storm: Lila Iké (Jamaica,) Krisirie (Barbados,) and Rochelle Chedz (Trinidad.) All three are in their mid-20s and have been performing since the mid-2010’s. All are songwriters, musicians, and have their roots in a mix of Hip-Hop, Dancehall, Reggae, Soca, R&B, and Neo-Soul. While staying true to their Caribbean roots and culture, each possesses a distinct vocal styling all their own. Their goal is to bring messages of hope and comfort in a time of turmoil and instability. I trust you’ll find these three young women each deserving of the crown. ~MPeggyQ
Jamaica’s contribution to the Caribbean triad of roots and neo-soul singers is Lila Iké (Lee-lah Eye-kay.) This 26-year-old talent is from the cool hills of Manchester, the same area as her favorite singer, Garnet Silk.
Writing from an early age, Lila pursued music full time after moving to Kingston in 2015. She performed in spots where young performers hope to get noticed, and in 2017 she was, by the popular singer Proteje, who recognized her potential and became her mentor and first producer. In 2019, Lile Iké was performing solo on stages across Europe, including at Rototom, the largest Reggae festival in the world.
Influenced by her mother’s broad swath of musical predilections, the young Alecia Grey (her birth name – Lila came later in Kingston), incorporates a variety of styles in her repertoire – from old school Reggae, to Dancehall/Rap, from Neo-Soul to Reggaeton. She composes captivating lyrics while playing guitar or electric piano. It all adds up to the natural feel of her personal stories and the messages she wishes to share. Her fans can feel her intent with her sensual yet strong and relatable delivery. Continue reading →