The reggae and dub legend passed away at Noel Holmes Hospital in Jamaica this morning
Lee 'Scratch' Perry, the legendary reggae artist and producer who helped shape the nascent sound of dub in the early 70s, passed away at Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea, Jamaica this morning. He was 85 years old. The precise cause of this death has not been made public.
Born Rainford Hugh Perry in Kendal, Jamaica on 20 March 1936 – though the exact date of his birth isn't entirely certain – Perry got his start in the music industry working with the notorious 'Sir' Coxsone Dodd in the late 50s, first working in his record shop, then going on to help out in the studio and with Coxsone's sound system. Nicknamed Lee from a very young age, the 'Scratch' part of his name came from one of his very earliest releases, 1965's The Chicken Scratch.
Backed by The Upsetters, Perry would go on to become a huge reggae star in his own right, as well as being much sought-after as a producer. But it was the work he did at his Black Ark studios from 1973 onwards that really cemented his place in the musical history books: the music pouring out of Black Ark, along with that produced by fellow Jamaican legend King Tubby, was vital to the emergence of a new stripped-back, FX- and echo-laden style of production that came to be known as “dub”.
The list of classics that bore Perry's signature is endless: from Max Romeo's Chase The Devil and The Congos' The Heart Of The Congos album to Complete Control by The Clash. Over the years he worked with everyone from Bob Marley & The Wailers to The Orb, Beastie Boys and Paul McCartney, but perhaps some of his best-loved collaborative work was the series of albums he made in the 80s working alongside Adrian Sherwood and Dub Syndicate.
Notoriously eccentric – at various times he claimed to have been born on Jupiter, in the sky or in outer space, and in 1983 he burnt down his own Black Ark studios, allegedly because he'd lost his favourite rubber ball – Lee 'Scratch' Perry was undoubtedly one of the most gifted and influential producers ever to step foot inside a recording studio. The world of music is the poorer for his passing, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.
We'll leave the last word to Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness, who tweeted this morning:
“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 has worked with and produced for various artistes, including Bob Marley and the Wailers, the Congos, Adrian Sherwood, the Beastie Boys, and many others. Undoubtedly, Lee Scratch Perry will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music fraternity. May his soul Rest In Peace.”