Lee “Scratch” Perry Dead At 85
The pioneering reggae and dub musician Lee “Scratch” Perry has died, as the Jamaica Observer reports. He passed away at the Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea on Sunday morning. No cause of death has been disclosed. He was 85.
Perry was born in the village of Kendal in Jamaica in 1936. He started working in music in the late ’50s, selling records for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s Downbeat Sound System; he soon started producing at Dodd’s Studio One but a falling out led him to rival label Amalgamated Records, run by Joe Gibbs. Another disagreement led Perry to form him own label, Upsetter Records, which is when he released “People Funny Boy,” in 1968, a defining document of early reggae.
Perry was a prolific musician and released songs under a laundry list of names. In addition to his most well-known nickname, Scratch, he also put out out work as Jah Lion, Pipecock Jakxon, Super Ape, and the Upsetters. He was an early adopter of dub music and his interest in it led him to open his own studio, known as the Black Ark. It was there that he recorded a young Bob Marley and produced a number of seminal Jamaican records, including his own with the Upsetters (1973’s Blackboard Jungle, 1976’s Super Ape) and albums by Max Romeo, the Heptones, the Congos, and Junior Murvin.
As Perry’s renown grew, he suffered a breakdown and he eventually, purportedly, burned down his Black Ark studio. After that, he moved to England and then the US and ended up in Switzerland, where he continued putting out music at a rapid pace. Over the last three decades, he’s put out numerous albums and collaborated with the likes of the Beastie Boys, the Orb, Brian Eno, Andrew WK, and many more. A documentary about Perry, The Revelation Of Lee “Scratch” Perry, was released in 2019, which focused on the making of his 2010 album.
Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, issued a statement about Perry’s passing: “My deep condolences to the family, friends, and fans of legendary record producer and singer, Rainford Hugh Perry OD, affectionately known as ‘Lee Scratch’ Perry,” he wrote. “Perry was a pioneer in the 1970s’ development of dub music with his early adoption of studio effects to create new instrumentals of existing reggae tracks.”
“He has worked with and produced for various artistes, including Bob Marley and the Wailers, the Congos, Adrian Sherwood, the Beastie Boys, and many others,” Holness continued. “Undoubtedly, Lee Scratch Perry will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music fraternity. May his soul Rest In Peace.”