4

The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee "Scratch" Perry

^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee "Scratch" Perry, which opens at Filmbar this week, is part chronicle Perry's life, and part history of Reggae and Dub music (both pioneered by Scratch).

Though Perry's words are thickly slurred, often-subtitled, and clouded in a thick, low cloud of "smoke," his message is simple: the music is immortal, and not much else matters.

Perry was raised in the ghettos of rural Jamaica. He says he first heard drums in the sounds of the rocks and cymbals ringing in the Jamaican wind. From these raw sounds Scratch pioneered Reggae music as it's known today.

Scratch's growing acclaim in Jamaica caught the attention of a a young Bob Marley, and a collaboration was born. Marley later said their work together "cast out the ghosts," and led to a mutual growth in spirituality.

The two worked together until Scratch sold the rights to Marley's music to a major music label (simultaneously rocketing Marley to international fame, but severing their relationship).

Flush with success, Scratch built his own recording studio (Black Ark Studio) and sprouted partnerships with musicians including The Clash, Paul McCartney, The Congos, Johnny Rotten, Robert Palmer, and Simply Red.

But financial success brought unexpected problems -- Jamaican gangsters and police extorted money from Perry and threatened his life. Despite surrounding chaos, the music continued, and the prolific artist recorded almost 20 songs per week, with hundreds of artists, for more than 5 years.

After a short-lived relationship with The Congos and Black Ark Studios (which burned down in 1983), Scratch moved to Europe where he fell hard for alcohol and a variety of drugs, but his inspiration and innovation continued.

Today, Scratch is in his 70s, and he continues to push boundaries, create original music, and collaborate with modern pop artists (including works with the Beastie Boys) and tour the world.

The Upsetter is narrated by Benicio Del Toro, and presented through archival footage and interviews with the idiosyncratic musician. The film provides a direct view through the eyes of a true music pioneer and visionary, and is an unexpected and rare view into the history of Reggae, punk, and hip hop music.

The Upsetter is playing at Filmbar May 19 to June 4. Read more about the film's music on Up on the Sun, partnership with Phoenix's Rum Bar on Chow Bella, and visit the FilmBar website for show times. 


Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook and Twitter.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.