I was on my way out to shoot this week’s installment of New Colossus Festival’s and 18th Ward Brewing’s Summer Sunday showcases when I learned that the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry died today. His loss is a tremendous loss: Much like Bob Marley, who he once produced, Mr. Perry served as an informal ambassador to Jamaica, it’s people and its culture — but in terms of music, Perry transformed the sound of reggae with dub, a sub-genre that is an international sensation with soundsystem crews in Japan and elsewhere influenced by him and his work. Hip-hop and electronic music can trace their origins to much of his work.
The Upsetter, as he called himself, has also worked with a who’s who list of artists across an eclectic array of genres and styles including Bob Marley, The Clash, The Beastie Boys, The Orb, Subatomic Soundsystem and countless others through a restlessly inventive career than spanned almost 7 decades.
I’ve seen Lee “Scratch” Perry three times. Mr. Perry was very much a zen trickster, who could take you on a transcendent journey through time, space and his own mind. I consider myself blessed to have caught him and been in a room with the legend. Long live The Mighty Upsetter, y’all! Long live Rainford Hugh “Lee ‘Scratch'” Perry!