Record producer, singer and songwriter, dub music developer, and studio technique innovator, Lee Scratch” Perry wore many hats during his lifetime. Born in 1936 in Kendal, Jamaica, the world lost one of the greats of the music industry when Perry died at the age of 85 in Aug. 2021 at the Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea, Jamaica.
Perry’s career in the music industry began as a record seller for Clement Coxsone Dodd’s sound system. He recorded nearly 30 songs there before moving on to Joe Gibbs’s Amalgamated Records. The music icon formed his own label called Upsetter Records in 1968 and worked with his studio band, the Upsetters. His unique production techniques earned him a reputation within the music industry as a true innovator.
His breakout single in 1968, “People Funny Boy,” sampled a baby crying. It would be 30 more years until was used again in “Are You That Somebody?” by Aaliyah and Timbaland. Perry is also credited as the first to create dub and laying the groundwork for electronica and popular dance. He worked under a variety of names that included Jakxon, Jah Lion, Super Ape, and Pipecock.
The producer eventually built his own recording studio in his yard and dubbed it Black Ark. During his career, Perry collaborated and produced with music legends that includes the Beastie Boys, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, The Clash and Moby, along with well-known British producers that include Adrian Sherwood and Neil Fraser.
Rolling Stone ranked Perry No. 100 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Perry eventually moved to Switzerland and lived there for many years. It’s where he built his second studio that he dubbed the “Secret Laboratory.” Adored by millions of fans and those in the music industry around the globe, the following are some things that people may not know about Perry.
1. His mother was of Yoruba ancestry.
2. Perry left home at the age of 15.
3. He was a mentor to reggae legend, Bob Marley.
4. In 2003, he won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album for “Jamaican E.T.”
5. His album with Daniel Boyle in 2014, “Lee “Scratch” Perry – Back on the Controls,” was nominated for a Grammy Award.
6. Vienna’s first Dub Champions Festival in 2013 featured Perry as one of the artists.
7. Perry received Jamaica’s 6th highest honor, the Order of Distinction, Commander Class, in 2012.
8. A Gold Musgrave Award was presented to Perry in 2013 by the Institute of Jamaica.
9. The video game “Grand Theft Auto V” features Perry as the DJ on the dub and reggae radio station The Blue Ark.
10. During his lifetime, Perry released 79 albums, 6 compilation albums and appeared in 6 films and 12 videos.