It has been reported that Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the visionary reggae and dub music producer, and friend and mentor to Bob Marley, has died at Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea, Jamaica at 85.
Soon after Perry’s passing was announced, Andrew Holness, the prime minister of Jamaica shared a tweet with his followers. He expressed, “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.”
Perry was a songwriter and founder of his studio session band, the Upsetters, in the 1960s and ’70s, producing albums for Bob Marley & The Wailers, and would go on to work with punk and hip hop bands like The Clash and the Beastie Boys. He released a number of albums with the Upsetters and under his own name, offering the world his unique dub sound and influencing a generation of rock, punk, hip hop and reggae artists.
Pitchfork writes, “Perry released his innovative first single, ‘People Funny Boy’ through the label, which highlighted his distinctive production technique. His studio experimentations—which included early uses of sampling and remixing—helped lead to the creation of the dub genre, which he solidified at Black Ark Studios—a new space he built in his backyard.”
The music legend had a gift for creating radically unique remixes of music, where he would take everything out but the rhythm of a song and reconstruct them with samples of sounds like explosions and breaking glass. He was considered to be a mad scientist and had nicknames like Inspector Gadget and the Firmament Computer.
His recording studio was a haven and a sacred place for him. “The studio must be like a living thing, a life itself,” he said, “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.”
Perry was nominated for five Grammys and won for his 2002 album, “Jamaican E.T.”
With his experimentation, musical freedom and powerful ability to inspire people by creating otherworldly reggae and dub music, he set a precedence for younger artists to explore and expand on their sounds, which has offered rich and colorful music. He made sound a work of art and for this the world is eternally grateful.