Caribbean Shaman: Vivien Goldman Detects Method in the Madness of the Legendary Reggae Artist Lee "Scratch" Perry

By Goldman, Vivien | New Statesman (1996), June 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

Caribbean Shaman: Vivien Goldman Detects Method in the Madness of the Legendary Reggae Artist Lee "Scratch" Perry


Goldman, Vivien, New Statesman (1996)


On the night Lee "Scratch" Perry performed at the New York venue B B King's last month, the news came through that the 1960s ska master Desmond Dekker had died. It seems that the first wave of Jamaican stars is becoming a rare species, historic monuments worthy of preservation orders.

Yet, although he began working around the time of Jamaican independence (he is 70), few performers can match the charisma of the wry, spry and ageless Scratch. His influence is undisputed, from the beginnings of his career as a writer and producer at the legendary reggae hothouse Studio One to his 1970s productions at his own studio, the Black Ark, which helped transform Bob Marley and the Wailers from rudeboys to rasta revolutionaries.

Though he now resides in Switzerland, Scratch remains a figurehead for his homeland's cultural heritage. Wreathed in smoke from a stick of incense stuck in his hat, he interrupted his B B King's set to ask for water, with which he promptly sprinkled the audience in an unexpected blessing. All very High Church, and also extremely Jamaican--or perhaps, more accurately, African.

"I remember Scratch coming in to record the Wailers in our studio above my family's record shop, Randy's, in the early 1960s," recalls the Jamaican producer Clive Chin, whose father, Vincent, launched the influential reggae record label VP. "He would come in early and sprinkle white rum in the four corners of the studio for a good session. He wouldn't sing to the musicians to describe the sound he wanted: he would do something outlandish like jump his left knee towards his right ear, to explain how far out he wanted them to push the sound."

Of the many producers I have seen in action, none has touched Scratch for sheer agility. Sound seems to hit him physically. Working at the Black Ark in the 1970s, he would jitterbug with his four-track TEAC recorder. With every dip, twirl and swift flash of a fader, he would send sound soaring in abstract directions, scattering beats and tones like sparkly confetti.

If you make it to his shows at the Jazz Cafe in London this month, expect a seance, an encounter with a Caribbean shaman. His live performances, however, sometimes fail to match the extravagance of his classic productions. "Scratch built his reputation as a producer, not an artist," says the reggae archivist Carter van Pelt. "But his personality on stage is intriguing for anyone who likes a good laugh, because he's an entertaining guy to watch in action."

Scratch is the archetypical outsider, and some of his more bizarre behaviour has been well documented. On one occasion he declared that the coconut was God. Of course, when he explained the thinking behind this to me in his Kingston yard in the 1970s, he was quite convincing. The coconut does indeed supply many human needs, from the meat to the milk, and, obviously, those versatile hairy husks can be woven for shelter. So if natural functionality is anything to go by, all hail the great coconut.

They have other uses, too. "I remember Scratch busting into the offices of Trojan Records, which owed him royalties at the time. He was with two big bodyguards, shaking a big coconut and shouting, 'I man come fe sabotage! …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Caribbean Shaman: Vivien Goldman Detects Method in the Madness of the Legendary Reggae Artist Lee "Scratch" Perry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.