The Survivors: Lee “Scratch” Perry
(In Which He Tells GQ That Lying About Inventing Reggae Killed Bob Marley)
GQ correspondent Chris Heath’s interview with the legendary reggae pioneer is one of the stranger, funnier, wilder things we’ve read in a long long time. Click here to read all of it, including the parts where Perry talks about his home planet of Sirius, the fact that he’s half fish (from the waist down) and why he cooks with marijuana but no longer smokes it. All of that is delightfully daffy. But there’s darkness, too: below, a portion of the conversation in which Perry insists that Bob Marley got cancer and died because he tried to steal credit for reggae’s creation from its rightful originator. (That being Perry.)
GQ: So, right now, can you hear voices?
Lee “Scratch” Perry: The spirit is speaking to you now. The spirit is telling me right now what to say. And I’ll just say it out there to the people out there—Bob Marley, if he tell the world that reggae did come from my house, 5 Cardiff Crescent, Washington Gardens [location of Perry’s legendary Black Ark studio in Kingston, Jamaica, which later burnt down, supposedly at his own hand], and reggae did not come from Trench Town…if he did say that he would be still alive.
GQ: So by not telling people…
Lee “Scratch” Perry: The truth.
GQ: That killed him?
Perry: The spirit kill him.
GQ: You really believe that?
Perry: I don’t believe it. I know it.
GQ: So misleading people about you gave him cancer?
Perry: Yeah. Tell the people the truth—that reggae did not come from Trench Town. When he start to sing he was singing ska with Coxsone [Jamaican producer “Sir Coxsone” Dodd] and didn’t know anything about reggae.
GQ: And you genuinely believe that there is a connection between that and the disease that killed him?
Perry: Well, the only thing that kill people is a lie.
GQ: Can’t people just be unlucky?
Perry: Lying. [Perry sticks out his tongue and touches its pointed tip with a forefinger.] The truth is this. This is a sword. It heals, and it kills. If you don’t speak the truth, the truth will kill you. And no doctor can cure you.