Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry 1936 – 2021

The legendary reggae musician and producer was 85.

By Andy Kahn Aug 29, 2021 9:47 am PDT

Legendary reggae musician and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry died at age 85. The Jamaica Observer reported Perry “died in the Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea on Sunday morning [August 29].”

Born Rainford Hugh Perry in Kendal, Jamaica in March 1936, his musical career began in the 1950s when he was employed at Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s Downbeat Sound System. Perry later worked for Dodd at his renowned Studio One, which opened in Kingston in 1963.

Lee “Scratch” Perry left Studio One and briefly worked at Amalgamated Records, before launching his own Upsetter label in 1968. For the next four years, Perry worked with his studio house band called The Upsetters, releasing several albums during that period.

In 1973, Perry built The Black Ark recording facility on his property in Kingston. There he produced and recorded Bob Marley & The Wailers, Junior Murvin, Mighty Diamonds, The Heptones, Junior Byles, The Congos and more. Perry was deeply influential in the development of dub reggae, becoming one of the preeminent proponents of the now hugely popular style of production. The Black Ark lasted only until 1978, when Perry purportedly burned the studio to the ground.

Perry continued producing, recording and performing throughout the 1980s and 1990s, while spending time living in the United Kingdom and the United States. He later established residency in Switzerland.

Perry earned the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album for his 2002 LP, Jamaican E.T. He went on to release many more albums, earning several additional Grammy Award nominations. Perry’s collaborators included Beastie Boys, Mad Professor, Bill Laswell, Keith Richards, George Clinton, Adrian Sherwood, Mr. Green, Subatomic Sound System, and many others.

In 2015, his studio in Zurich, Switzerland was damaged by a fire that resulted in the loss of unreleased recordings and other memorabilia from throughout his career. Earlier this year, Perry released Dubz Of The Root, a collaborative album with Spacewave and appeared on tracks with Ral Ston.

Among those sharing condolences for Perry was Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness:

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