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].
Yeah, was my friend.
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].
To read the entire interview click> Lee Scratch Perry Interview with Berklee’s Pat Healy