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. His work has been exhibited in The Kitchen N.Y.C, The Institute of Contemporary Art, The N.F.T in London and was honoured 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 handily turned a whole generation of punks onto reggae. It was whilst as a DJ 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-directed by Rick Elgood) shot in location in Jamaica 1997 was his first feature film.
Don continues to DJ 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.
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.
Don continues to explore the audio/visual medium….
Stuart Bailie is a music journalist, former Assistant Editor of NME and a long-time fan of Don’s work. He is the author of Terri Hooley: Seventy-Five Revolutions (2023) Trouble Songs (2018), 75 Van Songs (2020); co-founder of the Oh Yeah Music Centre and Editor of Dig With It.