LEE "SCRATCH" PERRY,
1936-2021

Lee “Scratch” Perry, a pioneering producer of roots reggae and dub, died Sunday in a hospital in the northern Jamaican town of Lucea, according to the Jamaica Observer. He was 85.

Starting at Studio One and then working from his own Ark Studio, Perry produced early records by Bob Marley and the Wailers and reggae hits such as Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves,” Max Romeo’s War Ina Babylon and The CongosHeart of the Congos. He was also known for his work with The Clash, George Clinton, Moby, The Beastie Boys and Paul McCartney.

Perry, who led his own band, The Upsetters, was a central force in the creation of the canter in reggae’s steady tempo. As he ventured into the spacey, echo-heavy world of dub, his template would influence post-punk bands, hip-hop artists and dance-music practitioners.

Born Rainford Hugh Perry, he went to work with Coxsone Dodd at Studio One in the late 1950s, working his way up to talent scout, store manager and ultimately, recording artist.

Perry left Dodd to work with Joe Gibbs before going independent. He opened Black Ark in 1973, experimenting with drum machines, samples and non-musical sounds such as gunfire and animal noises to create dub reggae. He burned the studio to the ground, however, in 1983 after determining that it had been comandeered by evil spirits.

Perry released more than 50 albums of new music between 1969 and 2019’s Rainford, working with other dub legends such as Mad Professor, King Tubby and Niney the Observer. He won a Grammy for 2002’s Jamaican ET.

Besides producing, Perry performed live and was featured at major rock festivals between 2007 and 2013, among them Coachella, Glastonbury, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Primavera, Bumbershoot and The Great Escape.

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