Jamaican producer and musician Lee “Scratch” Perry is dead

Genius producer whose sound vision and creativity have magnified the talent of major figures in Jamaican music (Bob Marley, Max Romeo, Junior Murvin, The Congos …), Lee “Scratch” Perry has aroused, beyond the family reggae, the admiration of musicians and sound engineers, conquered by its science of recording and mixing. He died on Sunday August 29, at the age of 85, in a hospital in Lucea, a port town on the north coast of the island.

Also a mystical performer-slamer looking like an eccentric guru, with his hair and beard dyed orange, his jewelry and his improbable headdresses, Lee “Scratch” Perry played a somewhat perched character. In the documentary Lee Scratch Perry’s Vision of Paradise, directed by Volker Schaner in 2016, he claims to have first existed as a fish before reincarnating as a human being and claims to dialogue with spirits …

Read also: Reggae: Lee “Scratch” Perry, veteran sculptor of his Jamaican

“Salvador Dali du dub” for some, “Reggae wizard” for others, “Lee Perry renews himself relentlessly, always surprising, with his spoken-sung speech”, told us about him, in 2019, the Alsatian dub group ERM (Easy Riddim Maker), who accompanied him on stage when he came to Europe. Some of his admirers saw him as a complete artist, both producer and sound engineer – « One of the first to create loops, to use samples inspired by any external sound, to layer several voices and layers of sound » -, singer, lyricist, composer.

“It is difficult to understand the complexity of the character by focusing only on his musical work as his inspiration is so prolific in terms of sculpture, painting, writing or even bodily expression”, according to the authors of the collective work Reggae Ambassadors. The legend of reggae (The Moon on the Roof, 2016).

“A genius of recorded music”

Born in a poor family under the name of Rainford Hugh Perry on March 20, 1936, in Kendal, Jamaica, Lee Perry said he had learned everything on the streets. In Kingston, the capital, he recorded in 1965 at Studio One of Coxsone Dodd – from whom he learned the profession of sound engineer – his first single, Chicken Scratch, a ska that makes its nickname public. His biographer, the American David Katz, author of Lee « Scratch » Perry : People Funny Boy, (French translation, Camion blanc editions, 2012), recounts the long life full of adventures of the one that the British musician and producer Brian Eno designates as “A genius of recorded music”.

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