Legendary Reggae Producer Lee “Scratch” Perry Has Died

Lee Scratch Perry
Photo: pitpony.photography/Wikimedia

Legendary reggae producer and singer, Lee “Scratch” Perry has died.

The reggae pioneer, born Rainford Hugh Perry, was known worldwide for his innovative studio techniques and production style. He died in Kingston on August 29, at the age of 85. Reports are that he had been ailing for some time.

Throughout his career, he worked with a variety of artists, including Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Murvin, the Congos, the Beastie Boys, and many others.

He was among the first Jamaican producer to use the studio as an instrument, and he pioneered the reggae instrumental form known as dub. His nickname came from his debut recording in the early 1960s, “The Chicken Scratch”.

From 1968 until 1972, Perry worked with his studio band, the Upsetters. The band backed Bob Marley on a full-time basis, especially with his 1969 groundbreaking works Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution.

In 1973, Perry built a studio in his back yard, the Black Ark and continued to produce notable musicians such as Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, the Heptones, the Congos and Max Romeo.

He soon began experimenting with drum machines and other studio effects that ushered in the dub era and paved the way for the current music production techniques used in reggae, hip-hop, and rock. He became known for his innovative production techniques as well as his eccentric character.

Perry reached a wider global audience as vocalist on the track “Dr. Lee, PhD” from the Beastie Boys’ album Hello Nasty in 1998.

In 2003, Perry won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with the album Jamaican E.T. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Perry number 100 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Later in his career, in 2010, Perry recorded three albums with British producer, Steve Marshall. The albums featured performances by Keith Richards and George Clinton. Two of these albums, End of an American Dream (2008) and Revelation (2010), received Grammy nominations in the category Best Reggae Album.

For his contribution to Jamaican music and culture, Perry received Jamaica’s sixth highest honor, the Order of Distinction, Commander class, in 2012.

In his later years, Perry resided in Switzerland with his wife Mireille and their two children. He had four other children.

Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness paid tribute to the music legend, saying that “Undoubtedly, Lee “Scratch” Perry will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music fraternity. May his soul Rest In Peace.”

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