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Music

Lee “Scratch” Perry film to get a release on Criterion Channel

Lee “Scratch” Perry is one of the most weel-renowned dub artists. He died at the age of 85 in 2021, although his legacy lives on through both his music, and the imprint he left on The Clash. 

Directors Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough managed to interview Perry for The Upsetter: The Life & Music of Lee “Scratch” Perry, a documentary film that will use the new footage, as well as archival footage. 

Licence to Kill star Benicio del Toro serves as the film’s narrator, and the documentary will make its streaming debut on the platform, as part of an overall collation that forms of part of the newly assembled ‘Roots & Revolution: Reggae on Film’ collection, which includes The Harder They ComeThe Story of Lovers Rock, among other entries. 

Perry’s influence was felt on The Clash. Impressed with their rendition of ‘Police & Thieves’, Perry framed a picture of the band on the walls of his Black Ark Studio in Jamaica. They were reportedly the only caucasian artists afforded that privilege. He is credited as producer on their guitar-heavy ‘Complete Control’, although the extent of his influence has been up for debate. 

Music represented something much grander than entertainment for Perry. It united people and made them feel comfortable about their chosen paths in life. He admired Paul McCartney’s efforts to legalise marijuana, as Perry felt that it brought optimism and good vibrations to the world at large. 

The film will likely demonstrate Perry’s life philosophies and offer viewers an insight into the formation of his life’s work. In 1966, Perry was among the crowd of people that greeted Emperor Haile Selassie’s state visit to Jamaica, which was said to be a great moment of truth for the development of Rastafarianism. In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, Perry denied Bob Marley’s presence at the state, but suggested that the emperor’s words helped cement the movement. 

“Well, some of us survive,” Perry recalled. “We survived poverty. We inherited poverty and survived it. Being rich is a blessing and a curse. If you’re not righteous it can be a curse.”