Iconic Dub Pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry Is Dead

Photo: Paul Bergen/Redferns

Legend of reggae and dub Lee “Scratch” Perry has died. He was 85. Perry died in a hospital in Lucea, Jamaica. No cause of death was given. Perry’s influence on reggae, dub, and hip-hop cannot be overstated. He collaborated with everyone from the Clash and Andrew W.K. to Bob Marley and David Lynch. He even hosted his own radio station in Grand Theft Auto V. Perry helped originate the roots reggae style, which spawned such artists as Bob Marley, Flaming Spear, and Peter Tosh. Perry built his own studio, the Black Ark, in 1973. From that base of operations, Perry produced his Upsetters albums, works by the Heptones, and demos with Bob Marley very close to the singer’s death. “Scratch helped my father look deeper into himself,” Ziggy Marley said in The Guardian. “[He] was instrumental in my father’s career.” Paul McCartney and Wings recorded there as well.

The Black Ark was known for its mystical vibes. Perry blessed his recording equipment with (among other substances) marijuana smoke, whiskey, and blood. Perry was known for being deeply spiritual, possessing a galactic attitude toward music and life. “I am an alien from the other world,” he once said. “I live in space — I’m only a visitor here.”

Artists who are indebted to Perry’s work shared their grief online. “We send the most love and respect we can to Lee Perry who passed today, to his family and loved ones and the many he influenced with his pioneering spirit and work,” Beastie Boy Mike D tweeted. The Beasties featured Perry on “Dr. Lee, PhD” on Hello Nasty. “We are truly grateful to have been inspired by and collaborated with this true legend.” Lupe Fiasco tweeted, fittingly, “AFRICAN BLOOD IS FLOWING THROUGH I VEINS SO I AND I SHALL NEVER FADE AWAY!!!!”

Iconic Dub Pioneer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry Is Dead