Reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry has died, aged 85.
The pioneering singer and producer passed away on Sunday at the Noel Holmes Hospital in western Jamaica, according to the Jamaica Observer.
Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, was quick to pay tribute, tweeting: “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.”
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. pic.twitter.com/Eec2MEd6yC
— Andrew Holness (@AndrewHolnessJM) August 29, 2021
Perry’s career spanned seven decades and he was beloved by the greats, including Rolling Stones star Keith Richards, who once called him “the Salvador Dali of music”, and Afrika Bambaataa, who claimed Perry’s sound “inspired us to start hip-hop.”
Born in Jamaica in 1936, Perry moved to Kingston in the early 1960s, and worked for Clement Dodd’s Downbeat Sound System and Studio One, producing dozens of songs for the label.
Following a spat with the reggae mogul, Perry moved to Amalgamated Records before launching his own label, Upsetter Records.
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 Super Ape, which would become a classic.
He also co-wrote and produced several tracks which would help establish Jamaican music globally, including Junior Murvin’s “Police & Thieves,” which would become a huge hit for The Clash from their self-titled 1977 debut album. Perry also produced the U.K. punk band’s single “Complete Control.”
A mental breakdown in 1978 halted Perry’s run of hits and he took a hiatus before returning to form and he has spent the past three decades releasing new albums annually, while collaborating with the likes of the Orb and Brian Eno.
Another longtime collaborator, Mad Professor, was quick to pay tribute to Perry, calling his death “the end of an era!”
“We first worked (together) in the early eighties, recording several tracks and doing tours, having many laughs, sharing many dreams…,” the dub producer wrote. “we spoke together with his wife a week ago… What a character! Totally ageless! Extremely creative, with a memory as sharp as a tape machine! A brain as accurate as a computer!
“We traveled the world together… Japan, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, All over the USA and Canada… and many more places. Never a dull moment! All the Bob Marley stories… all the Dodd stories!! And many more…(sic)”
He and Perry first worked together on 1989’s Mystic Warrior and went on to release several joint albums, including 1995’s Super Ape Inna Jungle and 1996’s Dub Take the Voodoo Out of Reggae.
“A clear understanding of the music and reggae industry… he guided me through the complicated reggae landscape, taught me how to balance a track to create hits…,” Mad Professor adds. “I am happy to have learnt from him… I am missing him already, but happy to have known him.”
The producer claims he has enough unreleased Perry material to release another 20 albums.
Scratch don’t die! pic.twitter.com/n623ZPupkt
— Mad Professor (@MadProfessordub) August 29, 2021