Remembering Lee “Scratch” Perry: Producer Dies at 85

Lee Scratch Perry

Anybody who even casually listens to reggae music has got to be familiar with Scratch Perry. After all, he was the individual who essentially made reggae music what it is today, transforming it from it’s rather mundane sound in the early 1970s into something completely different and unique. The music that is associated with reggae today is unlike any other type of music out there. Even for someone who has only heard it once or twice, it is instantly recognizable because there is simply nothing else like it. All of that can be attributed to the skills, talent and ingenuity of Scratch Perry. Unfortunately, it was recently reported that he passed away on August 29th of this year, at the age of 85.

An Icon That Made His Own Way

Back in the 1970s, Perry was a musician that wanted to do something completely different from what everyone else was doing. He was interested in creating a different sound and had worked with Bob Marley and other iconic artists. Ultimately, he wanted to take the skills that he had developed while working with these individuals and create something that didn’t sound like anything else that existed at the time. As such, he started to play with electronic sounds that could be created in the studio in order to combine existing instruments in a way that had never been done before, effectively creating a completely new sound that wasn’t hip hop or rap or country or jazz, but something entirely different. By the time he was finished with his experiments, as he called them, he had effectively created a new style that was only able to be produced in the studio because it wasn’t possible to create it in a practical sense unless you had an entire army of individuals to play the same instruments in exactly the right sequence, all at the same time.

As such, much of his music was recorded and then played through loudspeakers during live performances in order to recreate the sound. Many people even give him credit for being the first person to pioneer this type of technique in the studio, one that would become immensely popular with things like the auto-tuning of the 1980s and even the technology that is still used in studios today in order to make artists sound as good as possible. If you’ve ever wondered why some artists sound remarkably different in a live performance as opposed to their studio tracks, this is exactly why. The studios often use special techniques that can only be performed in-house to make artists sound the way they want them to sound. As such, not everyone can reproduce that sound when performing live. Whether you love these techniques or hate them, there is no doubt that it requires a great deal of forethought, not to mention an ability to understand the technical side of things in a way that very few people can. Scratch Perry possessed all of these qualities, as evidenced by the fact that he pioneered all of it.

A National Loss

Perry’s death is considered to be a national loss and in fact, the entire country of Jamaica is in mourning. When it was reported that he died in a hospital on the island of Lucea, in Jamaica, the prime minister of the country took to Twitter in order to inform people of his death, but also to remind everyone of his contributions to music. Perry essentially put Jamaica on the map with this special style of music and that is something that everyone there has remembered throughout the decades. As a result, virtually everyone within the country of Jamaica is keenly aware of the loss that they have suffered, feeling that loss in a very intimate manner. This has resulted in many people playing Perry’s music and recounting on social media the many contributions that he made to the industry that he loved over the course of many years.

Doing Things His Way

Virtually everyone that knew Scratch Perry would tell you two things about him. The first was that he was an immensely talented musician who could literally hear music in places where no music existed, just by looking at everyday things. People that knew him well understood that he looked at music in a very different way from most people, finding the rhythm of everyday life and recreating that sound in the studio. They would also be quick to point out that he was a man who was accustomed to doing things his own way. As is the case with so many truly gifted artists, he had an ability to see things in ways that others didn’t. This often meant that he wasn’t always taken seriously, especially by those who didn’t yet know how gifted he truly was.

As a result, he became quite accustomed to brushing past the naysayers and doing his own thing anyway. If someone told him that he couldn’t do something for one reason or another, he would go out of his way to do exactly that just to prove them wrong. He always seemed to know what direction he was going in and what he wanted, and he had a way of achieving it. The one thing he didn’t do was allow other people to hold him down or tell him that he needed to move on to something else. He was determined to carry out the things that he wanted to do and he would do whatever was necessary in order to make that happen.

At the moment, there has not been a cause of death announced. It is worth mentioning that at 85 years of age, it is possible that any number of things could have happened which ultimately caused his death. It isn’t even known whether or not he was suffering from a prolonged illness or if it was something that occurred rather suddenly, as family and friends have chosen to remain private for the time being. All that is known is that he had been admitted to a hospital before his death. Up until that time, there had been very few reports regarding Perry’s health, even at his advanced age.

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