Has it already really been a week? Yes. Actually, it’s been just over a week since news hit us that legendary Jamaica musician, producer and shamanistic audio-mystic Lee “Scratch” Perry had passed away.
Perry’s legacy and influence are massive. He was an indefatigable and prolific music maker, as well as a visionary and innovator in the recording studio. There he experimented with sound, explored the sonic possibilities and techniques offered up by the tools and equipment on hand. Audio effects like reverb, delay, echo and other electronic manipulations were liberally applied, as was the process of overdubbing.
Perry sculpted the dub and reggae aural aesthetic, providing the cues and and inspiration that helped propel several generations of musicians worldwide. Among these was Bob Marley and the Wailers. Far away from Jamaica, artists like Kanye West, the Clash, the Beastie Boys and Paul McCartney found inspiration and even collaborated with him. Perry’s innovations found their way into many disparate musical genres beyond reggae, including rock, punk, hip hop, and electronic dance music.
We are huge fans of Perry. If you don’t already know it, check out the song he produced for Max Romeo with his band the Upsetters called “Chase the Devil” from 1976. (See YouTube video below.) It’s a classic and perfect specimen of simultaneously light and profound mid-tempo reggae with Perry’s fingerprints all over it. The hooky bits of the song were famously borrowed by Kanye for Jay-Z’s tune “Lucifer.”
For a deeper cut, check out the song he recorded for Beasties Boys’ 1998 album “Hello Nasty.” The track is aptly called “Dr. Lee, Phd” and it’s a brilliant, bittersweet ganja-infused lullaby for the ages. (See YouTube video below.)
Rest in peace, Lee.