Don Letts’ reputation has been firmly established in both the film and music world by a substantial body of work from the late 70's through the 80's, 90’s and well into the millennium. His work has been exhibited in The Kitchen N.Y.C, The Institute of Contemporary Art, The N.F.T in London and was honored at Brooklyn’s BAM festival and The Milan Film festival. In March 2003 he won a Grammy for his documentary ‘Westway To The World’.
He came to notoriety in the late 70's as the DJ that single handedly turned a whole generation of punks onto reggae. It was whilst as a d.j at the first punk club 'The Roxy' in 1977, that made his first film 'The Punk Rock Movie' w/ Sex Pistols-The Clash and many others. This led to a period directing over 300 music videos for an diverse mix of artists ranging from Public Image to Bob Marley.
He then moved into documentary work making films on the likes of Gil Scot-Heron, The Jam, Sun Ra, The Clash and George Clinton. His most recent documentary was for Sir Paul McCartney’s ‘New’ project. Feature films include the legendary Jamaican movie 1997’s ‘Danchall Queen’.
Along with his autobiography ‘Culture Clash: Dread Meets Punk Rockers’ released in 2007 Don was also the subject of the documentary film ‘Superstonic Sound: The Rebel Dread’ in 2010.
He currently presents a weekly radio show on BBC 6 Music called 'Culture Clash Radio' and still d.j's nationally and internationally.
…..it was after seeing the Jamaican film ‘The Harder They Come’ back in 1972 that I first had the idea I’d wanted to express visually – lofty dreams for a black kid living in Brixton. Back then the film industry was an ‘old boys network’ and there was no way in for someone like me. Five years later punk exploded of the streets of London with its DIY ethos. My white mates were picking up guitars and I wanted to pick up something to - my choice, a Super-8mm movie camera…….
SELECTED FILM CREDITS
2017: 'Two Sevens Clash': Dread Meets Punk Rockers (50 mins SkyArts) shot, directed and narrated by Don this archive based film looks at the myth and the reality of the 'punky-reggae party' - using unseen footage shot on Super-8mm 40 years ago and as such is probaly the only untold punk rock story includes: The Sex Pistols - Big Youth - The Clash - Culture - The Slits - Linton Kwesi Johnson and many more.
2016: ‘Skinhead’ (60 mins. BBC4) written, directed and presented by Don this is a first-hand account of the skinhead movement - tracing its multicutural origins in the late 1960′s and its evolution through the 70′s and 80′s into a “threatening and bigoted subculture steeped in far-right politics - w/ Kevin Rowland, Pauline Black, Jimmy Pursey and Gary Bushell.
2005 ‘PUNK: Attitude’ (90 min Sky Arts) Putting punk in the context of an on going counter-culture - premiered on the IFC Channel in America it also won best the documentary prize at the Melbourne Film Festival and London’s Raindance.
1997 'Dancehall Queen' (90 min. feature film). Shot on location in Jamaica, it went on to be the longest running movie in Jamaica, breaking all box office records.
Culture Clash Radio, my weekly show on BBC 6Music allows me to broaden peoples perceptions of what I’m about. I’m just not reggae Don or punky Don. My musical selections cross time, space and genres and I don’t just rely on the tried and tested - I also keep an ear to the ground for my pick the latest sounds and in my eight year on the station I’ve never played a tune I don’t like - promise…
Don Letts ‘Culture Clash Radio’ BBC 6Music 22:00 – 0:00 Sundays Nights. available anytime to listen via his page on the BBC website and available to download in its entirety via BBC Radio Iplayer app.
Don's days as a DJ started by accident when he was asked to play at The Roxy Club (the UK’s first live punk rock venue). In between the fast and furious live punk sets Don played what he liked - serious dub reggae. Lucky for him the punks liked it to and this mix gave rise to the ‘punky-reggae party’. From that time till this he’s continued to DJ nationally and internationally with a set that’s very much in the spirit of his days at The Roxy – we’re talking the history and legacy of Jamaican music – with an emphasis on moving the crowd. For bookings club / festival / private:
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"As film-maker, musician, documentarist and cultural historian Don Letts has been, and still is, a catalyst for the minds and spirits of so many of us" - Jim Jarmusch
“The lesson that the filmmaker Don Letts’ autobiography can teach modern Britain is a simple one. Never limit yourself. Letts did not allow himself to be fully defined by his colour, nationality or even his Rastafarianism. That helped him play a part in the unification of the punk and reggae scenes. In doing so, he helped race relations in this country no end.”
“Vivid autobiography from the Grammy award winning filmmaker, friend of the The Clash and Bob Marley, DJ and co-founder of Big Audio Dynamite.”
….Observer Music Monthly
"You have for me filled a void that Peel left, a connection to past, present and future with a genuine love and enthusiasm. Long may you grace the airwaves and thank you for giving me the most positive, inspired and exciting soundtrack. Love to ya" - Adrian Veysey
You are one of my favourite DJs ever - in fact DJ isn't sufficient a word to describe you. Your show is my weekly inspiration. You introduce me to music I don't have time (working mum of 2!) to discover myself. Long may it continue - Jo Richards
"Highlight of my week! Your selection is impeccable, any show that rolls out "The Question" (Moody Blues) followed by "I'll be Around" (The Spinners) is one I'll be happily following until the end of my days. You Mr. Letts are an asset to not only BBC Radio 6 but to music enthusiasts everywhere. - Melody Ashe (31 years old)
Apart from DJing, Don's other musical exploits include creating the band Basement Five, a single with members of John Lydon's P.I.L, briefly managing The Slits and a collaboration with members of Trouble Funk. He recently recorded a reggae version of the London Calling!
In the mid 80's Don formed the group 'Big Audio Dynamite' with Mick Jones (ex-Clash). He went on to perform and co-write four albums with B.A.D achieving several hits on both sides of the Atlantic including the top ten hit E=Mc2. The band recently reformed for a world tour to sell out shows and critical acclaim. In the early nineties Don left B.A.D to form ‘Screaming Target’ their debut album ‘Hometown Hi-Fi’’ received rave reviews.
Along with songwriting collaborations with Dreadzone and remixes for various acts Don has also released several critically acclaimed compilation albums.
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