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Grammy-winning Jamaican music pioneer, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, is dead

Grammy Award-winning Jamaican music pioneer, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, is dead.

He died on Sunday morning at the Noel Holmes Hospital in Montego Bay, St James after battling illness for some time.

Perry was 85 years old.

"He had been battling high blood pressure for years. I have been trying to get to his wife, Mireille, to get the full confirmation and prove the real fact, but I hear it is online now," 65-year-old Milton Blythe, Perry's younger brother, said on Sunday morning.

Blythe, who runs Perry's music studio in Washington Gardens, St Andrew, said it is the second death in less than a month from within the Perry family. Just shy of a month ago, another member of the family, Icylin Perry, died, and is to be buried this Thursday. She lived in Kendal, Hanover, and reportedly died of respiratory complications.

"’Scratch’ come in like mi father; my father died when I was eight. I am the second to last one in the family, so he was like my father,” said Blythe.

“Our mother had eight of us, four of us are Perry, and the rest of us are Blythe. I have been around 'Scratch' since I was 17; he was like my father, he raised me, I developed as a man around him.

“I talked to the wife most of the time, and checked up on him. He was a very nice person, and I will miss him. The time has come and we have to accept that," Blythe further stated.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness confirmed Perry’s passing.

“My deep condolences to the family, friends and fans of legendary record producer and singer, Rainford Hugh Perry OD, affectionately known as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry,” wrote Holness in a Tweet on Sunday morning.

“Undoubtedly, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music fraternity. May his soul rest In peace,” added Holness.

‘Scratch’ Perry was one of the greatest producers in the annals of reggae music. Born in March 1936, couldn’t read or write music, but he is noted for his intuitive ear, his innovative studio techniques, and a brilliant, offbeat production style.

An eccentric genius, he is known for recording garden implements for beats, burying microphones under trees to get different sounds, blowing ganja smoke over tapes, and even running tapes backwards.

Perry was a pioneer in the 1970s development of dub music with his early adoption of remixing and studio effects to create new instrumental or vocal versions of existing reggae tracks.

He worked with and produced for a wide variety of artistes, including Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Murvin, the Congos, Max Romeo, the Beastie Boys and the Orb.

He produced more than 1,000 recordings during his career. These include some of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ best early recordings, such as the Soul Rebel and Soul Revolution albums, as well as the ‘Small Axe’, ‘Duppy Conqueror’, ‘Jah Live’, ‘Punky Reggae Party’ and ‘Rastaman Live Up’ singles.

Perry was a recipient of a national honour, the Order of Distinction at the rank of Officer.

He won a Reggae Grammy award in 2002 for the album, 'Jamaican ET'. He was nominated on four other occasions - in 2014 for 'Back on the Controls'; 'Revelation' in 2010; 'Repentance' in 2008; and 'The End Of An American Dream' in 2007.

He is known for songs including ‘Dreadlocks in Moonlight’, ‘Curly Locks’, ‘City Too Hot’ and ‘I Am A Mad Man’.

Perry, who hailed from Kendal in Hanover, lived in Switzerland for several years, returning to reside in Negril in January 2021, declaring then that Switzerland was “too cold”.

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