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Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Reggae Legend and Dub Pioneer, Dies at 85

Jamaican reggae musician, singer and producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry performs at Poppodium De Flux, Zaandam, Netherlands, 8th April 2018. (Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns)

Lee “Scratch” Perry, the highly influential reggae musician and producer, has died at the age of 85. Jamaica Observer reports that Perry died at Noel Holmes Hospital in the coastal town of Lucea. No cause of death has been reported.

“My deep condolences to the family, friends, and fans of legendary record producer and singer, Rainford Hugh Perry OD, affectionately known as ‘Lee Scratch’ Perry,” Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness wrote on Twitter. “Undoubtedly, Lee Scratch Perry will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music fraternity. May his soul Rest In Peace.”

Born in March 1936 in Kendal, Jamaica as Rainford Hugh Perry, Perry’s music career began in the 1950s. In 1968, he formed his own label, Upsetter Records. With Upsetter, Perry would pioneer dub music, which focused on remixing existing songs to create new instrumental or vocal versions.

Perry’s best-known personal work includes “Dreadlocks in Moonlight,” “People Funny Boy,” “Jungle Lion,” “Curly Locks,” “City Too Hot,” and “I Am A Mad Man.”

Over the course of his 60-year career, Perry would go on to produce a number of notable artists including Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Murvin, the Congos, and Max Romeo and the Orb. Perry was immortalized on the Beastie Boys song “Dr. Lee PhD” off of 1998’s Hello Nasty. Perry remixed a dub version of that song that would appear as a bonus track on the “Body Movin'” single.

In the liner notes of Beastie Boys Anthology: Sounds of Science, Mike D said of Perry, “We had all been influenced by Lee Perry’s productions. We were into how on reggae recordings there would often be a ‘dub version’ on the b-side of a single, a practice that got co-opted by a few punk and early hip-hop singles as well.”


Perry won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 2003 with Jamaican E.T. Years later, he enlisted Andrew W.K. to produce his Repentance album in 2008. Prior to that, his song “Enter the Dragon” was sampled by Panda Bear on “Carrots.”

In 2013, Perry was awarded a Gold Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica in recognition of achievement in art, science, and literature.