Lee "Scratch" Perry

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About Lee "Scratch" Perry

Few people can be said to have changed the course of modern music; fewer still have done so from their own backyard. But Lee “Scratch” Perry was not your everyday genius. Born in a small town in western Jamaica in 1936, he moved to Kingston as a teenager and apprenticed at the legendary Studio One. By 1968, he’d struck out on his own. After helping to codify the sound of roots reggae through his own music and as a producer, he built a studio, the Black Ark, behind his home in 1973. It was there that he pioneered the sound of dub, incorporating unusual samples and using studio technology for eerie, nearly avant-garde effect. This tension between the genre’s broad global appeal and Perry’s restless experimentation is best encapsulated in the saga of 1978’s Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread, which was rejected by his distributor for being too anti-commercial. Perry was prolific—he released dozens of records solo and with his band, The Upsetters—and mentored Bob Marley, pushing him toward the political and spiritual. Between his breakthrough and his death in 2021, Perry came to embody yet another contradiction: that of the global ambassador for a sound and culture who was nevertheless completely singular.

Kendal, Jamaica
March 20, 1936
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