Lee “Scratch” Perry, the Jamaican dub and reggae legend, has died at the age of 85, as the Jamaica Observer and The Guardian report. He passed away at Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea, Jamaica on Sunday morning. No cause of death has been revealed.
Perry was born in the village of Kendal in Jamaica in 1936. He began working in music in the 1950s, selling records with Clement Coxsone Dodd and later working at Dodd’s recording studio, Studio One. He went on to form his own label, Upsetter Records, and in 1968 released his first single, the highly influential ‘People Funny Boy’. Known for his innovative approach to production, he become an early adopter of dub music, which led to him opening his own studio, Black Ark. It was there that he produced records for the likes of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Byles, and Junior Murvin, as well as several of his own successful albums with his band The Upsetters, including 1973’s Blackboard Jungle, 1976’s Super Ape, and 1978’s Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread. “I see the studio must be like a living thing, a life itself,” he once said. “The machine must be live and intelligent. Then I put my mind into the machine and the machine perform reality.”
After relocating to the UK, Perry’s music reached new audiences following his work with British producers Adrian Sherwood and Neil Fraser, a.k.a. Mad Professor. Perry would go on to collaborate with the likes of the Beastie Boys, the Orb, Brian Eno, Andrew WK, and many others. He released over 80 albums throughout the course of his seven-decade career, winning the 2013 Grammy for Best Reggae Album for his record Jamaican E.T.
Andrew Holness, Jamaica’s prime minister, wrote in a statement about Perry’s passing: “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 wrote. “Perry was a pioneer in the 1970s’ development of dub music with his early adoption of studio effects to create new instrumentals of existing reggae tracks.”
“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,” Holness added. “Undoubtedly, Lee Scratch Perry will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music fraternity. May his soul Rest In Peace.”