11 Great Lee “Scratch” Perry Recordings: A Musical History

“My name is Rainford Hugh Perry,” the man with the lively red hair, matching beard and flaming eyes said after stepping off the stage in New York City many years ago. “My music is called thunder and lightning.” Known to everyone as Lee “Scratch” Perry, he had a way to get right to the point and press that point against his neck before bursting into hysterical laughter.

The visionary producer, performer and provocateur shaped and reshaped the sound of Jamaican music in the ’60s and’ 70s, creating magical and cultural records with a galaxy of stars from Bob Marley and the Wailers to The Clash and the Beastie Boys, for just name them. but a few. He was as incendiary as he was influential.

Spanning over half a century, Scratch’s rich catalog of recordings was by turns tender, rebellious, crass, obscene, and sonically revolutionary. He collaborated, innovated and often fell out with most of the great music makers in Jamaican history, including legends such as Coxsone Dodd, Joe Gibbs, King Tubby and Bunny Lee, as he pushed the evolution of the sound of the island from the ska. from stable rock to reggae, dub, punk rock, hip hop, jungle and beyond. Some of his most memorable songs were diss tracks directed at former partners like “Run for Cover”, “I Am The Upsetter” and “Chris Blackwell is a Vampire”.

Recognized as the mad genius of reggae, he made several of his greatest recordings at Black Ark, a quirky four-track home studio in a residential area of ​​Kingston, which he sadly burned down one day in 1979 – an incident that has sparked a lot of speculation over the years. “Even I can’t wipe out the Black Ark,” he told filmmaker Reshma B in 2014. “It produces rain, whirlpools, hurricanes, tidal waves, lightning, lightning, rain. thunder, hail, earthquakes… And that preserves life and kills. It paralyzes, cramps and paralyzes.

Perry’s passing sparked worldwide sadness and disbelief, not only because Scratch had contributed so much to global culture, but because he seemed somehow immortal. “He always said ‘I conquer death,'” said Emch of Subatomic Sound System, who has toured and recorded extensively with Scratch over the past decade. “I never thought he would go on as long as he did, but then he started to believe he would never stop.”

Over the past month, Scratch’s official Instagram posted about a new collaboration with a producer in Brooklyn, a November concert in Camden, Englamd, and plans to develop a community and healing center in Hanover, England. Jamaica with his wife of over thirty Mireille Campbell-Ruegg.

A 1995 cover story in Legend of the Beasties Grand Royal The magazine described Scratch as “the man, the myth, the Merlin many consider the greatest record producer of all time.” It’s an important claim, but here are some of the recordings that back it up.

1. Lee Perry “People Funny Boy”, 1968

“Now that you get to the top and get fat,” Scratch sings on this passionate diss record targeting former partner Joe Gibbs, “Everything I did for you you can’t remember.” The song’s melody is reminiscent of “Longshot Kick De Bucket”, a Scratch production for Gibbs’ Amalgamated label that went on to become a worldwide hit, resulting in financial disagreements that inspired the song. But this record is memorable for more than his resentment. The moody crying baby in the intro was taken from a radio jingle in what may be the first recorded music sample. And the muscular beat broke with the rock and steady style that reigned in Jamaica at the time, ushering in a fresh sound that led some critics to call it the first reggae song.


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