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Lee Perry

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry Dead At 85

Lee "Scratch" Perry (1936-2021) - Reggae and Dub Giant, Aged 85 / Unspecified Illness (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
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LUCEA, Jamaica (CelebrityAccess) — Pioneering producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, widely regarded as one of the forefathers of reggae and dub music, had died. He was 85.

Perry’s death was first reported by Jamaican media, who reported that he died at a hospital in Lucea. His passing was later confirmed by a series of tweets from Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness.

“Undoubtedly, today Jamaica has lost the rhythm and soul of a prolific music icon who has inspired many. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry was truly one of the most important and creative figures to have come out of Jamaica,” the statement Prime Minister Holness said.

Born in Kendal, Jamaica, in 1936, Perry dropped out of high school when he was 15 and found his way into the local music industry, securing a job as a record seller for Clement Coxsone Dodd’s sound system and eventually, Dodd’s Studio One label, where he recorded more than 30 songs.

However, financial disputes with Dodd prompted Perry to decamp from Studio One and join rival Joe Gibbs Amalgamated Records to continue his recording career.

In 1968, he launched his own label, Upsetter Records, scoring an immediate hit with the record “People Funny Boy” which featured one of the earliest uses of the beat that would later become synonymous with reggae.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he worked with the studio band The Upsetters and released numerous recordings through several subsidiary labels, making a name for himself in Jamaica and in the UK.

In 1970, Perry began working with Bob Marley and The Wailers, producing the track “Mr. Brown” and beginning a collaboration that would lead to some of the band’s most recognized hits.

In 1973, Perry consolidated his production work at Black Ark Studio, which he built in his back yard. At Black Ark, Perry refined his sound and continued to work with artists such as Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, the Heptones, the Congos, and Max Romeo, among others.

Despite the studio’s initial success, it fell into a state of disrepair until it burned down in 1983, with Perry insisting he had lit the fire himself in a fit of rage.

Following the demise of Black Ark, Perry went abroad, spending time in both the U.S. and abroad, sporadically performing live and continuing to produce records.

“I tire of the trope that genius rides shotgun with madness, but few people were as weird or cast as long a shadow as Lee Perry,” tweeted producer Steve Albini, following news of Perry’s death.

In the late 1980s, Perry stopped using alcohol and cannabis and began working with British producers Adrian Sherwood and Neil Fraser, AKA the Mad Professor.

Perry continued to record and tour through the late 1990s and 2000s, winning a Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2003 for “Jamaican E.T.”

He also continued his collaborations, working with a range of artists from the Beastie Boys, and Bill Laswell to Keith Richards and George Clinton.

In August 2012, it was announced that Perry joined Jamaica’s, the Order of Distinction, Commander class, sixth highest honor the nation can bestow.

Perry resided in Switzerland with his wife Mireille and their two children. He had four other children by the names of Cleopatra Perry, Marsha Perry, Omar Perry, and Marvin (Sean) Perry.

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