Iconic Jamaican music producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, who pioneered dub, has died. He was 85.
Jamaica Observer reports that Perry – born Rainford Hugh Perry – died at the Noel Holmes Hospital in Western Jamaica, following a struggle with an unspecified illness.
The Jamaican producer, who is widely credited as one of the inventors of dub reggae, has over his career worked with The Wailers, Max Romeo and Junior Murvin. He earned a Grammy in 2003 for his album Jamaican E.T. and was nominated again in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2014.
Perry will also be remembered for his experimental studio techniques that were both genre-defining and bizarre, such as blowing marijuana smoke onto master tapes. He even once buried microphones at the base of a palm tree to capture a kick drum sound produced by thumping it above ground.
In 1973, Perry’s backyard in Kingston, Jamaica was home to the Black Ark, a recording studio he built so he could have better control his work. Though its setup was rudimentary, the studio was where Perry devised his innovative techniques, and where the likes of Bob Marley, The Congos, Byles, the Heptones and Max Romeo came to cut records.
He explained his studio philosophy in the book Art, Technology, Consciousness: “The studio must be like a living thing, a life itself, the machine must be live and intelligent. Then I put my mind into the machine and the machine perform reality.
“Invisible thought waves – you put them into the machine by sending them through the controls and the knobs or you jack it into the jack panel. The jack panel is the brain itself, so you got to patch up the brain and make the brain a living man, that the brain can take what you sending into it and live.”
In 1979, the Ark burned down in a fire Perry claimed to have started. Following this, Perry began performing and recording with a long list of collaborators, dividing his time largely between the UK and the US.
Tributes to the late producer, from both music fans and peers, have poured in online. See a selection below:
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
Blessed journey into the infinite.
RIP Lee “Scratch” Perry pic.twitter.com/CBAoMTnfd0
— YASUKE (@flyinglotus) August 29, 2021
His adventure continues beyond this realm pic.twitter.com/Ta3JWsXI7w
— Tim Burgess (@Tim_Burgess) August 29, 2021
We give thanks for the wonderous life of Lee "Scratch" Perry… the ORIGINAL UPSETTER.
"I grew up with revolution in my brain, revolution in my leg, and revolution in my head"~ Lee "Scratch" Perry
JAH LIVE🇯🇲💚💛🖤 pic.twitter.com/Vme5phrHPt
— Tuff Gong (@TuffGongINTL) August 29, 2021
Dreadfully sad news. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the mighty Upsetter had passed away, aged 85. https://t.co/5M1Pp30yOM
— Trojan Records (@trojanrecords) August 29, 2021