RISE AGAIN LEE SCRATCH PERRY | PLAYING CRAZY TO CATCH WISE

“For me to survive, me have to find something for myself and it was like a spiritual vibration, so me said– me going to make spiritual music.  This spiritual music coming– they call it Reggae.”

–Lee “Scratch” Perry 

Reggae and Dub master, Lee “Scratch” Perry is often overshadowed by the Reggae giants that followed in his footsteps– namely Bob Marley.  Not that Marley doesn’t deserve praise– Perry is just long overdue, and grossly under-acknowledged.  Growing up in rural Jamaica, he later moved to Kingston and worked his way up from music studio janitor to songwriter and producer. Perry’s debut single “People Funny Boy” was one of the first recordings to sample– the sound of a baby crying.  In fact, what “Scratch” Perry was able to lay down on old, broken-down, low-tech equipment is nothing short of genius.  Perry’s crazy garb and outlandish, eccentric behavior have oft played perfectly to his reputation for being crazy– but many believe (and by his own admission) it was more a ploy to shield himself from the brutality of Jamaica’s badasses.

Now, to coincide with Lee “Scratch” Perry’s 75th birthday, there’s the release of the new album Rise Again, and documentary film called The Upsetter (narrated by Academy Award Winner Benico Del Toro)which chronicle’s Perry’s epic songwriting and producing career– highlighting his pioneering recording techniques, and ground-breaking (and still influential) contributions to reggae and dub music.

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Reggae / Dub master Lee “Scratch” Perry at his Black Ark studio in Jamaica

Lee “Scratch” Perry

Jamaica, 1976 — Lee “Scratch” Perry (and The Heptones) — Image by © Kate Simon  via

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THE WILD LIFE AND UNTIMELY DEATH OF THE REGGAE LEGEND PETER TOSH

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From the desk of Contributing Editor Eli M. Getson-

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Growing up in Chicago during the 1970’s and 80’s I had the opportunity to see some truly epic musicians. Luckily, I looked older than my years, and also had the advantage of a stellar fake ID– so Dr. James Fortier, OBGYN could get into any number of late night haunts, concert halls, and after hours clubs.  I saw a lot of great acts in those days.  However, I contend that no artist I have ever seen, before or since, could hold a candle to Winston Hubert McIntosh, aka Peter Tosh.  Peter, usually arriving to the stage late, would literally stalk the floor with intensity.  He filled up a hall like no other musician I have ever seen– it was like he sucked the oxygen out of the place.  A Peter Tosh concert was a roller coaster ride.  He could appear stoned out of his mind, ranting about legalizing ganja use between songs– and then be completely lucid and take on the role of machete wielding revolutionary giving a political speech on the oppression in the Third World and the evils of apartheid.  Whenever I saw Peter I could not take my eyes off him– he literally scared/fascinated the hell out of me.  And hearing him do a solo version of “Get Up, Stand Up” was a religious experience that hit me like a ton of bricks.

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1983 ~ Peter Tosh Holding a Microphone and Guitar ~ Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis

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In a lot of ways I think Peter was ahead of his time, and probably is more of a spiritual father to the hip-hop movement than he gets credit for.  To say he grew up hard is an understatement.  Born to parents who were too young to raise him, Peter was raised by his aunt in the Trenchtown ghetto in Kingston, Jamaica.  He taught himself guitar early on by listening to American AM stations from Miami and New Orleans who played the likes of Chuck Berry.  Peter became quite a local celebrity in Kingston in the 1960s singing ska, and was introduced by his musical mentor Joe Higgs to Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer.

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1972, Jamaica ~ L-R: Earl Lindo, Bob Marley, Carlton Barrett, Peter Tosh, Aston “Family Man” Barrett. ~ Image by © Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis

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It was through this fateful hook-up that Peter and Bob became friends and the Wailers were formed.   Through Joe’s teaching, the group learned to harmonize and often sang on the street corners of Trenchtown and at various local sets as they got bigger.  Through their will, guile and talent, the Wailers became Jamaican superstars and caught the attention of a young, British music exec named Chris Blackwell, who signed them and released their first two albums Catch a Fire and Burnin’ in 1973.  I am not sure if Blackwell signed the Wailers solely with the intent of making Bob Marley a star– but after a rather nasty spat over Blackwell’s refusal to record a Tosh solo effort, Peter left the group and began several years of twists and turns.  While Marley became the major Reggae star from Jamaica with his “One Love” message, Peter constantly berated a system he felt was unfair and would be beaten and harassed many times by the Jamaican police, even after he’d attained stardom.

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