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 Don adopted the punk D.I.Y ethic and begun to make his first film 'The Punk Rock Movie'. Shot on Super-8mm it is the only documentary on the U.K punk scene w/ Sex Pistols-The Clash and many others. This led to a period directing over 300 music videos for an eclectic mix of diverse artists ranging from Public Image to Bob Marley. He then moved into documentary work covering the likes of Gil Scot-Heron, The Jam, Sun Ra, George Clinton and most recently Paul McCartney. Dancehall Queen (co-directedby Rick Elgood) shot in location in Jamaica 1997 was his first feature film.
At the end of 2007 Don presented 'Speakers Corner' in conjunction with the British Arts council. Featuring several spoken word artists, poets and rappers with a musical band in a theatrical setting. The event toured the UK in November-December and was a contemporary response to the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British slave trade.
SELECTED FILM / DOCUMENTARY CREDITS AS DIRECTOR
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.
2014 ‘Something New’ (45 minute doc) aired globally to promote Sir Paul McCartney’s latest album ‘New’. Produced by four producers Mark Ronson – Paul Epworth – Giles Martin and Ethan Johns it’s an insiders view on the making of the record and the events that took place during the year in which it was made.
2013 Royalty Close Up’ (4 x 30 min series SKY 1/Sky Arts) A look at the Royal Family through the photography of Royal photographer Kent Gavin. Features Piers, Anne Robinson and Alastair Campbell.
2012 'Subculture' (6 x 10 min series CH4) a look at British youth sub-culture from Teddy Boys to the Rave generation.
2012 ‘Celebrity Exposed’ (4 x 30 series Sky Arts) The second in this series looks the life and times of the king of the paparazzi Richard Young features Kate Moss, Elton John, Vivienne Westwood, Steven Berkoff and David Walliams.
2011 ‘Rock n’ Roll Exposed’ (4 x 30 min series Sky Arts) this series looks at the life and work of legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen who as well as documenting the story of rock n’ roll was also John Lennon’s personal photographer for ten years. Features Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon, Iggy Pop, Deborah Harry, Alice Copper and Tommy Ramone amongst others.
2010 ‘Strummerville’ (60 mins/Sky Arts) premiered at SBSW film the looks at the work being done by The Joe Strummer Foundation ForNew Music. Featuring unseen archive of the man himself and contributions by Billy Bragg and Damien Hirst.
2010 ‘Chase The Devil’ (4 mins) animated music video performed by N.A.S.A and commissioned by Doctor Martens for their 50th anniversary.
2010 ‘Strummerville Sessions’ (3 x 15 min / C4) a three part tv series presenting the best of the foundations up and coming artists presented by Jamie Winston.
2009 ‘Carnival!’ (60 mins) A look at the multi-cultural journey of London’s Nottinghill Carnival now in its 50th year. Featuring Sir Trevor Mcdonald, Andrea Oliver, Norman Jay MBE, Paul, Trevor Philips OBE, Rudolf Walker and Jazzie B. OBE.
2009 ‘Made in Sheffield’ (30 mins Channel 4). The making of Tony Christies new album produced Hawley and featuring songs by famous Sheffield artists like The Artic Monkeys, The Human League and Pulp.
2008 ‘The Clash: Revolution Rock (60 mins BBC3) A look at the history of the Clash through their live performances.
2007 ‘Soul Britannia’ (60 mins BBC). The final episode of a three part series looking at the impact of black music on the U.K and it’s part in changing the cultural identity. Features Soul to Soul’s Jazzie B, Norman Jay, Amy Winehouse, Massive Attack’s Daddy G, Mica Paris, Omar, Roots Manuva, Goldie, Joss Stone and Trevor Nelson amongst others.
2007 ‘Still Burning: Stiff Little Fingers’ (90 mins) a definitive history of Belfast’s seminal punk band.
2006 ‘The Good The Bad and The Queen’ (50 mins) Concert film of Damon Albarn’s new project with Paul Simonon ex-Clash, Simon Tong ex- Verve and Tony Allen. Shot at The Tabernacle in West London.
2006 ‘Tales Of Dr. Funkenstein’: George Clinton (60 mins BBC4). A look at the master of P-Funk, features George Clinton, Andre 3000 and Macy Gray.
2006 ‘Rock It To Rio’: (60 mins Ch4/Sky Arts) On tour with Franz Ferdinand in Chile, Argentina and Brazil w/ Bono.
2006 ‘All Mod Cons’ (40 mins) The story of the making of The Jam’s album of the same name w/ Paul Weller,Bruce Foxton and Rick Butler.
2005 ‘PUNK: Attitude’ (90 min Sky Arts) from Jerry Lee Lewis to Nirvana the film puts 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.
2005 ‘The Brother From Another Planet’ the story of Sun Ra (60min. BBC2) A look at one of the strangest characters to emerge from the jazz scene.
2004 ‘One Love’ (90 min. feature co-directed with R. Elgood). Premiered at Cannes this is a love story shot on location in Jamaica starring Bob’s son Ky-mani Marley.
2003 ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: The Story of Gil Scott-Heron (BBC2 60 min. doc). Critically the documentary also featured The Last Poets, Chuck D and Mos Def.
2002 ‘Downtown To Worlds End’ (30 min. doc). A look at the roots of Punk Rock in New York City. Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Group), John Holstrom (Punk Magazine), Jayne County, Bob Gruen and Richard Lloyd of Television.
2001 ‘The Hundred Greatest Number One’s’ (Ch4, 4hrs doc). A lighthearted look at 100 of the best number one singles from the late fifties to date. Viewed by 6 million it was Channel 4’s highest rated program that year.
2000 ‘Smile’ (45 min doc.) A portrait of Marti Pellow (of Wet Wet Wet fame) as he embarks on a journey back to Tennessee. Features Willie Mitchell (Al Green’s producer).
1999 'Westway To The World’ (82 min. doc BBC2). This Grammy winning documentary looks at the story of the Clash, one the most influential punk bands of the 70's, from their roots in the U.K to their conquest of America.
1998 ‘Return of the Super Ape’ (Ch4/30 min doc). Featuring the legendary work of Jamaican recording artist/producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry.
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.
1996 'Planet Rock' (BBC 60 min. doc) the final episode in the B.A.F.T.A nominated series 'Dancing in the Street'. Aired in 26 countries around the world, the program examined the effect of black music in the Eighties. Features Grandmaster Flash-Africa Bambatta- Run DMC-De La Soul-Public Enemy-Frankie Knuckles-The Beastie Boys-Derrick May.
From the late seventies through to early nineties Don directed over 300 music for acts as diverse as: Bob Marley -The Pretenders - Musical Youth - Ratt - Elvis Costello - Freeze - Big Audio Dynamite - Public Image -The Jungle Brothers - S’ Express - Black Grape -The Pogues - Beenie Man -Deep Forest - Apache Indian-The Jungle Brothers - Eddie Grant - Sly and Robbie and all The Clash videos.
His long formwork includes: ‘Legend’: Bob Marley - ‘The Story of the Clash’ (MTV Special). DVD projects: Taj Mahal - Roy Ayers - Curtis Mayfield - Gil Scott Heron - ‘Heartland Reggae: Special Edition’ - Essential Clash and Revolution Rock (The Clash)
As well as his weekly ‘Culture Clash Radio’ weekly show on BBC 6 Music Don has also presented several radio documentaries for BBC radio including:
‘The Peter Tosh Story’
‘The Other Nottinghill’
‘The Story of Island Records’
‘Blood & Fire: Roots, Reggae & Rastafari’
‘Tighten Up’: The Story of Trojan Records
‘The Blues Dance’
‘The Clash Live At Shea Stadium’
‘Dread Meets Santa’s Christmas Reggae Rockers’
‘The Story Of British Reggae’
Don continues to D.J nationally and internationally playing strictly old and new school dub reggae. His set is in the spirit of his time as DJ at London’s legendary Roxy club back in ’77.
From the days of Punk Rock to present day Don has always been drawn towards musical projects. After d.j’ing at the Roxy and whilst directing videos for many other acts he created the band Basement Five, released a single with members of John Lydon’s P.I.L, managed the Slits and collaborated with members of Trouble Funk. He recently recorded a reggae version of the London Calling!
In the mid 80's he 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 performance at The Transmusical Festival in France received rave reviews. They released one critically acclaimed album ‘Hometown Hi-Fi’’.
Don d.j’s nationally and internationally, sets include Glastonbury – Bestival - Lovebox – The Big Chill – Stussy 25th Anniversary - Adidas –- Doctor Martins - Latitude - The Rough Trade 25th Anniversary - Lee Perry’s Meltdown –Rizzla -Island Records 50th anniversary - Massive Attack’s Meltdown – Vintage At Goodwood - Womad and Festival No.6 to name a few. He was recently asked to d.j for both Arcade Fire’s soid out London gigs at The Roundhouse.
Along with collaborations with Dreadzone and remixes for various acts Don has also released several compilation albums:
1996 ‘Time Warp Dub Clash’ (Island Records) a compilation of old and new school dubs.
2002 ‘Dread Meets The Punk Rockers Uptown’ (Heavenly Records) voted one of the top ten compilations by the N.M.E.
2003 ‘Don Letts presents: The Mighty Trojan Sound’ (Sanctuary Records) a critically acclaimed compilation of classic seventies reggae.
2004 ‘Dread Meets B-Boy Downtown’ (Heavenly Records) a compilation of early eighties hip-hop.
2008 ‘Dread Meets Greensleeves: A Westside Revolution’ (Greensleeves Records) compiling late seventies roots to two thousand and eight dancehall.
2015 ‘Dread Meets The Punk Rockers Uptown Volume 2’ a follow up the critically acclaimed first release.
‘Dread Meets Yasushi Ide’: (Japan only) a bass heavy selection from the land of the rising dub.
Don continues to explore the audio/visual medium….