He Came. He Saw. He Conquered.
Lee “Scratch” Perry was born Rainford Hugh Perry on March 20, 1936 in Kendal Jamaica.
His work as a producer and musician is considered some of the most influential in the history of Ska, Reggae and Dub and Jamaican music in general, in fact.
Lee “Scratch” Perry began working in the recording industry in the 1950s as a record seller for Coxsone Dodd’s Sound System, which was essentially a mobile booth containing speakers and a variety of American R&B records. The DJ would play the records in the street, and the record seller would hawk them. Coxsone Dodd eventually turned to making his own records in the legendary Studio One, where Perry was his assistant.
After personality conflicts caused Perry to split with Coxsone Dodd, Perry served a short stint at Joe Gibbs’ studio, and eventually began his own label, Upsetter Records. His first hit single, recorded with his band The Upsetters, was called “People Funny Boy”, and made two major musical innovations: first, it was a very early use of a sample, and it was also the first recording of the rhythm that is now identified as reggae.
In 1973, he built his own recording studio, known as the Black Ark. At this point, he began focusing heavily on production, and worked with such legends as Bob Marley and the Wailers, The Heptones, and Junior Marvin. It was during his collaborations with Bob Marley that he made some of his most notable innovations.
Lee “Scratch” Perry is often credited as being the inventor of dub, an off-shoot of reggae that emphasizes mixing-board remixes of instrumental songs, often with the bass and drums turned up and lots of reverb.
Eventually, Perry grew tired of the Kingston scene, particularly after Bob Marley’s death. He traveled extensively, performing and recording, and eventually settled down in Switzerland. At the age of 74, he is still performing, and is known for his wild outfits and bizarre (though highly entertaining) on-stage storytelling.
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