Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry death: Dub and reggae legend dies at 85

·3-min read
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who has died at the age of 85, pictured in 2016 (Roger T Smith/Shutterstock)
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, who has died at the age of 85, pictured in 2016 (Roger T Smith/Shutterstock)

Lee “Scratch” Perry, the legendary dub and reggae innovator, has died at the age of 85.

Perry’s death was confirmed by The Jamaica Observer, which wrote that Perry died on Sunday (29 August) while staying at Noel Holmes Hospital in the Jamaican town of Lucea.

A cause of death has yet to be disclosed.

Born Rainford Perry in Kendal, Jamaica in 1936, the musician is widely credited with taking the reggae sound worldwide. His experiments in the studio, which combined sampling and remixing, were enormously influential, and he was considered one of the major figures in the creation of dub.

Among his production techniques was to smoke marijuana and exhale all over his recordings. “You know why?” Perry told The Talks in 2019. “God made man and blew his breath into him and the man became a living soul. So I would practice and that would make the words true. The herb is the teacher, so the herb tells me what to do and I have to do exactly that. It’s like a shepherd, and I have to follow the shepherd.”

Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness was one of the first to commemorate Perry’s legacy, writing on Twitter: “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.”

Tributes have additionally begun to pour in from all corners of the music world.

Flying Lotus tweeted: “Blessed journey into the infinite. RIP Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.”


“Few more important figures in the music of the 20th century,” tweeted The Mountain Goats. “He expanded the vocabulary of studio sound; lived a long life & leaves a lasting legacy. play his music for your kids, see how instantly they love it. it’s universal. safe travels home to God.”

Across his career, Perry worked with legends including Bob Marley and the Wailers, Paul McCartney, Junior Murvin, The Congos, The Orb and The Beastie Boys.

Recognised as one of music’s most eccentric artists, Scratch told Rolling Stone in 2010 that he would never change who he is.

“Being a madman is good thing!” he boasted. “It keeps people away. When they think you are crazy, they don’t come around and take your energy, making you weak.”

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