Dub and reggae pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry dies, aged 85 | DJMag.com Skip to main content

Dub and reggae pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry dies, aged 85

The legendary musician died in hospital in Jamaica

Dub and reggae pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry dies, aged 85
Dub and reggae pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry dies, aged 85

Lee "Scratch" Perry, the pioneer of dub and roots reggae music, has died, aged 85.

Jamaican media reported that Perry died in hospital in Lucea, northern Jamaica. No cause of death has yet been given.

Andrew Holness, Jamaica's prime minister offered his "deep condolences" to Perry's family upon the announcement of his death, calling him "unforgettable" and praising his "sterling contribution" to music.

Many figures from across the music world have also paid tribute to Perry – who was often known as The Upsetter – following the announcement of his death. In a tweet, the Beastie Boys' Mike D, who worked with Perry on the track 'Dr Lee PhD' from the group's 1998 'Hello Nasty' album, spoke of his "pioneering spirit", adding: "We are truly grateful to have been inspired by and collaborated with this true legend."

Flying Lotus has also paid tribute to Perry, sharing a photo of the artist alongside the message: "Blessed journey into the infinite."

Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis said: "RIP the almighty Lee 'Scratch' Perry, musical genius, free spirit and a regular Glastonbury performer. We shall miss him." 

Perry was born in rural Jamaica in 1936 and moved to the capital, Kingston, in the early 1960s. His music career began in the 1950s when he was hired by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, head of reggae studio and label Studio One, as an assistant.

Developing as a talent scout and DJ, he eventually got his break as a recording artist and producer with the same label, going on to earn his "Scratch" nickname from an early recording of his, 'The Chicken Scratch', in 1965. He left Studio One in the mid-'60s after a falling out with Dodd.

From there, Perry joined Joe Gibbs' rival label Amalgamated Records, where he continued to produce music for other artists and record his own music. However, disagreements between Perry and Gibbs resulted in Perry finally founding his own label, Upsetter Records, in 1968.

Perry pioneered dub recording techniques over the years that followed, developing dub versions of reggae tracks, where the bass would often be emphasised, vocals sometimes stripped away, and reverb frequently added.

Over the several decades that followed, Perry worked with a number of other legendary musical figures, including Bob Marley, the Beastie Boys and The Clash. He produced more than 1,000 recordings over the course of his career in all.

Find some of the tributes that have been shared about Perry below.

Topics