Lee "Scratch" Perry, a pioneer of reggae and dub, gets profiled in "The Upsetter." Credit: Provided
Black History Month is not only a celebration of African American achievements and events, but those of the entire African diaspora. Of course, one could use any excuse to celebrate great people, especially if one of those people is Lee “Scratch” Perry, one of the pioneers of reggae and dub. Even given the frequent Beastie Boys shout-outs, he’s not as much a name as Bob Marley, whose sound he helped forge. Indeed, it was only six years ago that he got his own hagiographic, fawning Great Man Documentary, “The Upsetter: The Life and Music of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry," which you can stream right here:
Perry first got turned onto sound as an art form and obsession while listening to rocks being thrown at construction sites while growing up in rural Jamaica. He became one of the most prolific of the nation’s music makers, working not only with Marley but with outsiders like The Clash and Linda McCartney. But his collaborators are the ones who ended up starstruck; to those in the know, the real standout is Perry.
All this acclaim, of course, has given Perry a big head — a big, beautifully dyed head, even in his old age. “The Upsetter” hangs with him in his 70s, as he’s ear-deep in a semi-comeback following the requisite music titan flame-out. Filmmakers Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough obviously can’t believe they’re hanging out with this icon, and as with anyone of his stature that’s a dangerous thing. Much of the running time finds Perry drunk on his own legend, rattling off tall tale claims and propping himself up to absurd heights. But he’s earned the right to be as crazy as he likes. As he talks endless crap and occasionally makes chill beats, you too won’t mind being had.