“Lee ‘Scratch’Perry died this morning while in Noel Holmes Hospital. He was 85 years old, ”Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced on his twitter account. Born in 1936 in Kendal, Jamaica, Rainford Hugh “Lee” Perry left school at age 15 before moving to Kingston in the 1960s.
“I didn’t learn anything at school, I learned everything in the street”
“My father worked in the streets, my mother in the fields. We were very poor, ”he told British rock magazine New Musicalm Express (NME) in 1984. “I didn’t learn anything at school, I learned everything in the street”. “Sorcier du reggae”, “Salvador Dali du dub” (extension of reggae based on echoes), “The Upsetter” (“The pain in the ass”): nicknames abound for this elusive and striking figure in the history of the music.
He is the one who pushed Marley in the studio to come out of his gangue to rise to the top. “Without him, Bob Marley might have remained an orphan arrow from his bow,” wrote Francis Dordor, a specialist in the snowman, in Les Inrockuptibles. Perry “reintroduced Africa into Jamaican music. Not only the rhythmic plurality but also the cultural and philosophical resonance ”.
“If I hit my enemies, they live on. Because I hit them with love ”
But the Jamaican shaman should not be reduced to this fact of glory. This frail silhouette blowing ganja on his microphone to chase away evil spirits before his performance-experiences on stage, instilled a number of musical motives. “It is the sound of Perry and that of Jamaican toasters (DJ taking the microphone) that inspired us in the early days of hip-hop” admitted Afrika Bambaataa, pioneer of US rap, in Rolling Stone. And some of the hypnotic loops that sprang from Perry’s mixing consoles – elevated to full-fledged instruments – are heard in techno. The man will not harbor any resentment at hearing his signatures here and there. “If I hit my enemies, they live on. Because I strike them with love, ”he said in a cryptic formula he had the secret, launched in Le Temps, a Swiss newspaper, a country where he ended up settling in the late 1990s.
The Clash, The Beastie Boys, Moby…
Other artists have collaborated in broad daylight with the legend, from The Clash to the Beastie Boys through Moby, electro brain providing the backing vocals – alongside ex-porn star, Sasha Gray – for one of his works .
You should have seen the phenomenon talking to a cow in the vicinity of Einsiedeln – its Swiss base, a major pilgrimage site for its Black Madonna – in the documentary “ Lee Scratch Perry’s vision of paradise Signed Volker Schaner.
Why the Swiss Alps? To follow his last wife, a Swiss, former dominatrix and ex- “patroness of a brothel”, “expert in the whip who was called Madame Devil” (“Madame Demoniaque”) as explained by Le Temps.
Volker Schaner’s film is rich in amazing scenes. We hear the sound sculptor say that he was a fish before being human, or repeat that he “defeats the vampires”. We admire his different headdresses, Indian feathers in the far-west style, seaweed fresh out of the waves or caps overloaded with charms or mirrors.
A thousand lives
A whole universe, born from his labyrinthine spirit, often compared to that of Postman Cheval. A decorum-jumble that ended up in his legendary studio in Kingston, the “Black Ark”. What led him behind desks to shape sounds? The legend lends him a thousand lives – bulldozer driver, professional dancer, domino player… – before he becomes a little hand in recording studios in the Jamaican capital then founded his label, “Upsetter”. A studio which will end in flames at the beginning of the 1980s without the origin of the fire being ever established. And in the 2010s, it was his new den-workshop, in Switzerland, which suffered the same fate. Perry will then say on his social networks that he forgot to put out a candle. He who created so many sparks in the music.