“Scratch” Perry a reggae Icon dies at 85
The dynamic,ever singing and revolutionary Jamaican producer, songwriter and performer, Lee “Scratch” Perry, whose influence and fame extended far beyond his historic role in the development of reggae music both on-source and off-source died Sunday at a hospital in Lucea, Jamaica at age 85. Cause of death has not been made public yet. But we all know this is such a great loss to the reggae industry and even the music industry at large.
The news was asserted in a tweet from Jamaica’s prime minister,Andrew Holness. He tweets;
“My deep condolences to the family, friends, and fans of legendaryrecord producer and singer, Rainford Hugh Perry OD, affectionatelyknown as ‘Lee Scratch’ Perry,” Holness wrote. “Perry was a pioneerin the 1970s’ development of dub music with his early adoption ofstudio effects to create new instrumentals of existing reggae tracks.He has worked with and produced for various artistes, includingBob Marley and the Wailers, the Congos, Adrian Sherwood, theBeastie Boys, and many others. Undoubtedly, Lee Scratch Perry willalways be remembered for his sterling contribution to the musicfraternity. May his soul Rest In Peace.”
Perry was a strong man in his time, who rose to what he was with a lot of due processes a young boy who dearly love the raggae music, which he later became one of the pioneer and champion of the genre of music would face in his time. During the early years of his career, Perry worked on some of Bob Marley And The Wailers’ best early recordings such as the ‘Soul Rebel’ and ‘Soul Revolution’ albums as well as the ‘Small Axe’, ‘Duppy Conqueror’, ‘Jah Live’, ‘Punky Reggae Party’, and ‘Rastaman Live Up’ singles. “Scratch helped my father look deeper into himself … [he] was instrumental in my father’s career,” Ziggy Marley said of Perry’s work with his father when asked in an interview once.
His 1968 single, People Funny Boy, became a huge hit in the U.K.and Jamaica, allowing Perry to build his own backyard studio,where he would master the art of dub by remixing his own tracks,and record 1973’s Blackboard Jungle and the 1976 album SuperApe, which would become a classic.
In 1973, he built his own studio, the renowned Black Ark. He experimented with drum machines and the potential of studio equipment. As well as firing guns, breaking glass and sampling animal noises, he also blew marijuana smoke on to master tapes to supposedly enhance the recordings. He pioneered the technique of dub versions of reggae tracks, with the bass emphasised, vocals sometimes removed, and reverb added to create an eerie, echoing sonic space. “I see the studio must be like a living thing, a life itself,” he said. “The machine must be live and intelligent. Then I put my mind into the machine and the machine perform reality.”
He also co-wrote and produced several tracks which would helpestablish Jamaican music globally, including Junior Murvin’s Police& Thieves, which would become a huge hit for The Clash from theirself-titled 1977 debut album. Perry also produced the U.K. punkband’s single Complete Control. Which also branded his fame and position as a great producer and writer of raggae music.
Perry burned down the Black Ark in 1983, just 10 years after he created it. He had a personal convinction it was possessed by evil spirits, but he steadily continued to record throughout the rest of his life. He won a Grammy award for the 2003 album Jamaican ET; further collaborators included George Clinton, Moby, the Orb, the Slits’ Ari Up and the Beastie Boys: “They were nice Jewish boys and they were clean inside. Very lovely,” he said of the latter, who honoured him in the track Dr Lee PhD. He also collaborated with British dub producers Adrian Sherwood and Mad Professor. A documentary about his life, The Upsetter, was narrated by Benicio Del Toro and released in 2008.
Perry was married twice, first to Paulette Perry, from whom he divorced in 1979, and then to Mireille Ruegg, whom he met in 1989. He later moved to Switzerland to live with Ruegg, with whom he had two children.
During the celebration of his 80th birthday, Perry told The Guardian when interviewed about his passion and inspiration on music. He replied, “Music is magic. If you have good music you have good magic. If you have good magic you will be followed by good people.”
Perry was a man dedicated to his cause and reason of existence which in no doubt was to make raggae music. Since the confirmation of his demiss, numerous artists such as El-P, Flying Lotus, TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, Mad Professor, and many others have shared remembrances or statements in memory of Perry on social media. The lovers of raggae music Nationwide know this to be a heavy blow on the legacy and making of raggae music.
May his soul find rest and peace in the world beyond. Legend.
Editor in chief Anthia Wint, Author, Herbalist Therapist, Radio Host