David Katz (author)

David Katz is an author and documentary producer.


Katz was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area, where he exposed to reggae as a teen on the weekly Midnight Dread show on local radio station KTIM[1]. He obtained a BA in English Literature from SF State University and moved to London in the 1980s, where he was appointed Lee Perry's biographer [2], and later completed an MA in Media Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London.


Katz is author of People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry[3][4], Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae[5][6], and Caribbean Lives: Jimmy Cliff[7].

He has contributed to many other books on music and culture, including the Rough Guide to Reggae, A Tapestry of Jamaica, Caribbean Popular Music: An Encyclopedia, Keep On Running: The Story of Island Records and Mashup: The Birth of Modern Culture. His writing and photographs have appeared in many international publications, including The Guardian[8], The Telegraph, The Independent, Newsweek, Mojo[9], Q, Wax Poetics, Riddim, Caribbean Beat[10] and Murder Dog. Katz has coordinated and annotated over 100 retrospective collections of Jamaican music, has released original records in the UK and France, and has co-hosted reggae radio programmes on three continents.

Katz has produced documentaries for Afropop Worldwide/Public Radio Internationa[11]l and contributed to radio and television documentaries for the BBC[12], Channel 4 and Arte and was a music consultant on the feature film Dreaming Lhasa.

Katz holds a regular residency as a disc jockey, presenting the "Dub Me Always" reggae vinyl nights[13] at the Ritzy in Brixton and has played at venues and festivals throughout Europe, the USA, Japan and Brazil. He has also co-chaired panel discussions with performers, journalists and filmmakers at various music festivals[14] and given presentations at different international universities[15] and other venues.

Originally from San Francisco, he has been a London resident for many years[16].

Critical reactionEdit

A Publishers Weekly review of Jimmy Cliff: An Unauthorized Biography said:

In this meticulously annotated but otherwise arid biography, reggae historian David Katz (Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae) charts the implications of that choice and Cliff's rise as a performer. ... However, Katz leaves out much of Cliff's personal life.[7]

Mark Terrill Writing in Rain Taxi said of the book People Funny Boy:

[R]eggae was more than just pop music; it was also a part of the culture, and no extensive discussion of reggae music would be complete without also addressing post-colonialism, Rastafarianism, Jamaican politics, and the music business itself, in particular the Jamaican/English axis. David Katz covers all of these issues and more in this comprehensive and highly-readable biography of Lee "Scratch" Perry, ... the result of years of research and interviews, ... Despite the obvious temptation to exploit the more sensational aspects of Scratch's life and career, Katz has written a factual, straightforward, yet lovingly compiled account of a highly eccentric character ... Katz's ability to balance detailed documentation with lively anecdotes provide for an absorbing yet entertaining read.[17]

A review in Spannered of the book Solid Foundation says:

This excellent collection of interviews by reggae historian David Katz is a significant step in the archiving of the formative years of Jamaica's most commercially successful and internationally recognised cultural export. Katz's work is vital, not least because the first exponents of the Jamaican boogie and ska sound of the early fifties which he focuses on initially are increasingly few in number. His project is a welcome contribution to the small number of well researched and persuasively written books on reggae. ... Katz's own narrative and the interviews themselves are full of compelling details ... Solid Foundation is necessarily incomplete and its account of the evolution of reggae is coloured by the affiliations and prejudices of Katz's interviewees (his own are clear from his neglect of dancehall, reggae's most vibrant contemporary form). But the patience and persistence required to assemble this kind of work clearly reflect the author's passion for reggae...[18]

Jay Trachtenberg, writing in The Austin Chronicle said of Solid Foundation:

The history of Jamaican popular music has been told a number of times before, perhaps most comprehensively by Steve Barrow in his Rough Guide to Reggae. One of the collaborators on that project was David Katz, a Californian now based in London, whose recent biography of Lee "Scratch" Perry was met with critical acclaim. Katz has done extensive research, interviewing more than 250 people in compiling this dense oral history. And therein lies the book's strength and weakness. ... Over the course of 350 jam-packed pages, this quickly becomes ponderous. To his credit, Katz has gathered a staggering amount of engrossing and entertaining information. He's at his best when using overlapping interviews to tell a particular story.[19]

A review of Solid Foundation in Reggaezine said:

To some extent any book on reggae must rely on oral testimony, due to the absence of formal written documentation, but Solid Foundation is exactly what it says, built upon the author's 'formal interviews conducted with more than 250 of reggae's prime movers over 15 years'. This epic labour, pursued across the ghetto yards of West Kingston and the green hills of Jamaica's rural parishes, enables Katz to let the pioneers and innovators of the music speak for themselves with only the lightest authorial touch. ... Everyone is here, veteran singer Derrick Morgan, founder of Studio One Coxsone Dodd, pioneer DJ U Roy, even Eddie Seaga, leader of the Jamaican Labour Party, ex Prime Minister of Jamaica and, for many, an instigator of the political violence that plagues Jamaica to the present day. Their oral testimonies work with each other to form a composite picture of a fast moving and chaotic era obscure even to its own participants who, as in all revolutions, could never know their place in the bigger picture. ... books like Solid Foundation will represent a long overdue mark of respect. Many more books on the glories of Jamaican music will follow, but David Katz' will remain one of the very best.[20]


  • People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry. 2000. ISBN 978-1846094439.
  • Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae. 2003. ISBN 978-1908279309.
  • Caribbean Lives: Jimmy Cliff. 2011. ISBN 978-1904955962.


  1. ^ http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111014/ent/ent1.html
  2. ^ https://unitedreggae.com/articles/n802/111911/interview-david-katz-on-jimmy-cliff
  3. ^ "David Katz Pens The Lives Of Two Outstanding Jamaicans". The Gleaner. 2011-10-14.
  4. ^ "People Funny Boy: The Genius Of Lee 'Scratch' Perry". Record Collector Magazine.
  5. ^ "SOLID FOUNDATION: An Oral History Of Reggae".
  6. ^ Trachtenberg, Jay (2003-06-06). "Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae". Sheet Music. Austin Chronicle.
  7. ^ a b "Jimmy Cliff: An Unauthorized Biography". Publishers Weekly. November 28, 2011.
  8. ^ "David Katz". the Guardian.
  9. ^ "David Katz". Mojo Music.
  10. ^ "David Katz".
  11. ^ "David Katz". Afropop Worldwide.
  12. ^ "The Music of Time, Jamaica". BBC.
  13. ^ "Dub Me Always at Upstairs at the Ritzy - Hip hop, D&B, R&B and funk". Time Out London.
  14. ^ "reggae university". rototomsunsplash.com.
  15. ^ "Solid Foundation". Marketing and Communications Office. Marketing and Communications Office, The University of West Indies at Mona.
  16. ^ Dickens, Tim (May 4, 2012). "Brixton People: David Katz, author and DJ".
  17. ^ Terrill, Mark (2001). "People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry | Rain Taxi". Rain Taxi. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  18. ^ "David Katz: Solid Foundation - An Oral History of Reggae". Spannered.
  19. ^ Trachtenberg, Jay (June 6, 2003). "Sheet Music". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  20. ^ "Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae". Reggaezine. Retrieved 13 July 2020.

External linksEdit