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Culture Clash

Dread Meets Punk Rockers

Essay by David Nobakht, Don Letts


2007 SAF Publishing 978-0946719891 English

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As a first-generation British-born black, Don Letts quickly learned to assimilate aspects of Jamaican culture into inner-city urban London life. Leaving school, he gravitated to Chelsea's King's Road, inhabiting the fashion world alongside Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. As resident DJ at the fledgling punk club The Roxy, Letts pumped a roots-reggae soundtrack to a predominantly white audience that included members of The Clash and the Sex Pistols, forging a link between the two clashing cultures. A chance meeting provided him with a Super-8 movie camera, the result of which was released as The Punk Movie and set Letts on a career of influential videos featuring Sex Pistols, Pil, the Slits, The Clash, Bob Marley, and even the -platinum-selling Musical Youth. His feature films include Dancehall Queen, the Grammy Award-winning Westway to the World-his documentary on The Clash-and Clash on Broadway. He has recently directed feature documentaries for the BBC on Sun Ra and Gil Scott-Heron. Alongside The Clash's Mick Jones in Big Audio Dynamite, Letts pioneered dance culture and sampling techniques, hanging out with Africa Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, and the cream of the New York City hip-hop scene. Admired by Fellini, a friend of Bob Marley and John Lydon, and a documentarian of The Clash, Don Letts has never pigeonholed himself. This book is a firsthand account, told in Letts' own words-it's highly visual, revelatory, irreverent, entertaining, and staunchly individual.


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