Reggae Music Loses Another Giant, Lee “Scratch” Perry

Reggae Music Loses Another Giant, Lee "Scratch" Perryby Howard Campbell

[KINGSTON, Jamaica] – As news circulated on social media that reggae shaman Lee “Scratch” Perry had died on August 29, tributes to one of the music industry’s most talented and unpredictable personalities, came at a furious clip.

Perry, a Grammy winner known for his work as a producer with Bob Marley, The Wailers, Max Romeo and Junior Byles, was 85 years-old. He died of an unspecified illness in his native Hanover parish in western Jamaica.

British broadcaster, sound system operator and reggae historian David Rodigan, said, “The world of music has lost one if it’s most enigmatic creators; an amazing, incomparable phenomenon whose sonic sound waves transformed our lives.”

He added that, “The Blackboard Jungle album alone stands as a beacon of sheer brilliance.”

Tributes came from the Beastie Boys, The Clash and Lupe Fiasco, all of whom acknowledged Perry’s vision and genius.

Rodigan first met Perry in 1979 at the producer’s infamous Black Ark studio in Kingston. That’s where the eccentric producer made magic with artists and musicians enthralled by his unconventional approach to music.

Prior to constructing the ‘Ark’ in the early 1970’s, Perry came of age as a producer by directing The Wailers on songs like Duppy Conqueror and Mr. Brown. These were followed by Beat Down Babylon and A Place Called Africa by Junior Byles; War Ina Babylon by Max Romeo, Police And Thieves by Junior Murvin, and Fisherman from The Congos.

Bob Marley allegedly rated Perry as the best producer he worked with. They collaborated on the songs, Smile Jamaica and Punky Reggae Party.

Punky Reggae Party

The bassist on Punky Reggae Party was Boris Gardiner, who was one of the diminutive Perry’s go-to musicians. He also places Scratch in the top drawer.

“He liked to use professional musicians, he never liked amateurs. People like Ernie Ranglin (guitar), Mikey ‘Boo’ Richards (drums), (keyboardists) Robbie Lyn and Keith Sterling…he could relate to them,” said Gardiner. “But if he didn’t like what he heard he got very cross.”

The Black Ark mysteriously burned to the ground in the late 1970’s and Perry moved to Europe where he already had high-profile admirers such as The Clash and Robert Palmer.

Grammy Award

He married Mireille, a Swiss national, and settled in her country. Perry did more work as an artist in the latter stage of his career, recording a number of avant garde albums. One of them, Jamaican E. T., won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 2003.



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