Arts & Culture

The Legacy of Lee Scratch Perry

todayAugust 30, 2021 35 10 4

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The Legacy of Lee Scratch Perry

26/03/36 – 29/08/21.

By Stephen Nye

The late Lee Perry came into this world as Rainford Hugh Perry in Kendal, Jamaica. His precise date of birth is unknown but it is widely reported as 26th March 1936. By the late 1950s Rainford aka Lee made his way to the Island’s capital where he became involved in and pioneered every significant phase in the development of the Jamaican recording industry.
His first port of call was in Brentford Road where he assumed various responsibilities for Clement `Coxsone’ Dodd’s Studio One empire.It was there that he produced, directed and auditioned artists such as the Maytals and the Wailers as well as distributing the end product. As a recording artist, it was while at Studio One that Mr Dodd released Lee’s recording debut, `Chicken Scratch’. The song was based around a popular Jamaican dance at the time and led to him becoming known as Scratch. The tune was released in 1961, having proved popular on acetate (dub plate) when played on Coxsone’s Downbeat Sound System where Scratch began working alongside Prince Buster.
Prince Buster’s experience with Mr Dodd led to him setting up his own Voice Of The People sound system. As is often the case in Jamaica, the natural development of a sound system was to set up an affiliated record label. Soon after the label was launched Scratch was invited to record for Voice Of The People, and famously provided the vocals on the eponymous `Judge Dread’. Following his association with Prince Buster, Scratch embarked on sessions with Joe Gibbs whose first release was a gibe at Mr Dodd named `The Upsetter,’ which led to another alias. Scratch the Upsetter also formed allegiances with Clancy Eccles and Niney before branching out on his own with another taunt this time at Joe Gibbs, `People Funny Boy’. And since that time his independent works have stood the test of time having famously steered Bob Marley and The Wailers to international stardom. He has since produced a virtual who’s who of Jamaican reggae superstars.
Having relished a number of hits with Trojan in the UK, including his first crossover hit, `Return Of Django’  on his Upsetter label.  He later signed a deal with Dennis Harris whose EVE empire led to his second international chart hit with his production of Susan Cadogan’s, ‘Hurts So Good’ while the release of Junior Byles, `Curly Locks’ bubbled under.
He subsequently set up the Black Ark where he recorded a series of classic hits with the Heptones and Max Romeo as well as returning to the international stage with Junior Murvin’s, `Police And Thieves’ that inspired an extremely popular punk version. Inspired by the punk phenomenon Scratch was reunited with Bob Marley to produce, `Punky Reggae Party’ as well as working with UK punk bands.
Scratch was a unique character and his eccentric behaviour drew the attention of the media endearing him to a new audience. However, he always remembered his roots and recorded with musicians from the African continent  including Seke Molenga and Aura Lewis before reinventing himself as Pipecock Jackson. He released a series of bizarre dub workouts and linked up with the Mad Professor, a partnership that resulted in a series of classic LSP albums. He also returned to the Trojan label who released the Grammy Award winning `Jamaican ET.’
He has been widely acclaimed as a genius and while the media are sometimes too quick to give praise there are few who would question his deserved eulogy.
Rest In Eternal Peace, Rainford Hugh Perry, Scratch, the Upsetter, Pipecock Jackson born 26th March 1936 died 29th August 2021.
By Stephen Nye

Written by: gapciud68

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