No other producer contributed more to the Jamaican sound than Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. The icon has passed away at the age of 85.
From the ’60s onward, the sound of the small Caribbean island of Jamaica had an outsized influence on the world. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry was at its epicentre, concocting reggae and dub masterpieces from his Black Ark Studio in Kingston. The legendary producer has died at the age of 85. The cause of his death has not been revealed.
Absorbing the RnB rhythms that were emanating from America and infusing with the Caribbean flavours of calypso, the uniquely Jamaican styles of reggae, ska, and rocksteady blasted out of the ‘Soundsystems’ across the island.
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry took these sounds as material for dub, an innovative form of instrumental remixes which harnessed the power of studio effects like reverb and delay. To see Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at work in the studio wasn’t just technical — it was a performance.
The outpouring of tributes in the wake of his passing is a testament to the breadth of his influence. Artists as diverse as Billy Bragg, Beastie Boys, and The Mountain Goats have taken to Twitter to offer their tributes, as well as fellow studio luminaries like Steve Albini.
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. His records were shocking and became talismans for anybody who ever tried to manifest the sound in their head.
— steve albini (@electricalWSOP) August 29, 2021
Even Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, heaped praise on Perry, which is indicative of his significance to the artistic culture of Jamaica.
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
Vale Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.