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Sasha Frere-Jones

Related: music journalism - Village Voice


Sasha Frere-Jones is a music journalist. He also writes for The Village Voice. He runs a blog at http://www.sashafrerejones.com

Lee Perry Article from the Village Voice

When is a crazy black man a crazy black man? From Monk to Marvin to Dr. Octagon, the myth of black lunacy has been publicly inseparable from the reality of black genius. Monk knew how to fake a straitjacket, and it wasn t because people on Saturn wear leopardskin that Sun Ra did--lunacy is a pill that nonblack America sometimes needs to ease the pain of admitting that almost all of the formal innovations in popular music have been made by black musicians. Lee Scratch Perry has created his own realm of stealth weirdness, simultaneously writing and unwriting the history of reggae, often on ras bumba claat s dime. Perry s life is its own rich remix.

There's no one with a history in Jamaican music like Hugh Rainford Perry, born in 1936. Roughly speaking, there are four major phases of his career:

(1) 1963 to 1973: Perry interns with the legendary Coxsone Dodd, scouting talent like the Maytals, and helping record acts at Dodd s Studio One as the music evolves from mento to ska to rock steady to reggae. Eventually falling out with Dodd, Perry goes on to work with rival producer Joe Gibbs, forming the first versions of his own Upsetters house band and starting the Upsetter label. Perry s 1968 jab at Gibbs, People Funny Boy, slows down the beat of ska to create what Perry alleges is the beginning of reggae, but he ll have to joust with Toots about that one.

(2) 1969 to 1978: Perry teams up with the pre-Island Bob Marley and the Wailers, recording some of the most staggering roots reggae ever. Aston and Carlton Barrett abandon the Upsetters to join the Wailers full-time and Perry begins to work with excellent vocalists like Junior Byles, the Congos, and the Meditations. With King Tubby, Perry helps create dub, which he stretches to the breaking point in the next phase.

(3) 1974 to 1979: Perry builds the Black Ark studio in the yard of his home in Washington Gardens, one of the most mythologized locations in popular music, variously attributed with X-Files powers, unusual smells, invisible engineering attributes, and a palm tree with an audible heartbeat. Amid controversy, most of the Ark burns down in 1979 while Perry grows increasingly paranoid.

(4) 1980 to present: Records a hodgepodge of solo albums as a vocalist with various backing bands in New York, Kingston, New Jersey, London, and points elsewhere. --S.F.J., the "Village Voice", date unknown via http://niceup.com/articles/lee_perry_vv

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