Lee "Scratch" Perry  

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"I'm gonna send him to outa space, to find another race."--"Chase the Devil" (1976) by Max Romeo

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Lee "Scratch" Perry (born Rainford Hugh Perry, on March 20, 1936, in Kendal, Jamaica) is a reggae and dub artist, who has been highly influential in the development and acceptance of reggae and dub music in Jamaica and overseas. He employs numerous pseudonyms, such as "Pipecock Jaxxon" and "The Upsetter".



Perry's musical career began in the late 1950s as a record seller for Clement Coxsone Dodd's sound system. As his sometimes turbulent relationship with Dodd developed, he found himself performing a variety of important tasks at Dodd's Studio One hit factory, going on to record nearly 30 songs for the label. Disagreements between the pair due to personality and financial conflicts, a recurring theme throughout Perry's career, led him to leave the studio and seek new musical outlets. He soon found a new home at Joe Gibbs's Wirl records.

Working with Joe Gibbs, Perry continued his recording career, but once again, financial problems caused conflict. Perry broke ranks with Gibbs and formed his own label, Upsetter, in 1968. His first single "People Funny Boy", which was an insult directed at Gibbs, sold very well. It is notable for its innovative use of a sample (a crying baby) as well as a fast, chugging beat that would soon become identifiable as "reggae" (the new sound did not really have a name at this time). From 1968 until 1972 he worked with his studio band The Upsetters. During the 1970s, Perry released numerous recordings on a variety of record labels that he controlled, and many of his songs were popular in both Jamaica and the UK. He soon became known for his innovative production techniques as well as his eccentric character.

In the early 1970s, Perry was one of the producers whose mixing board experiments resulted in the creation of dub. In 1973, Perry built a studio in his back yard, The Black Ark, to have more control over his productions and continued to produce notable musicians such as Bob Marley & the Wailers, Junior Byles, The Heptones, and Max Romeo. With his own studio at his disposal, Perry's productions became more lavish, as the energetic producer was able to spend as much time as he wanted on the music he produced. It is important to note that virtually everything Perry recorded in The Black Ark was done using rather basic recording equipment; through sonic sleight-of-hand, Perry made it sound completely unique. Perry remained behind the mixing desk for many years, producing songs and albums that stand out as a high point in reggae history.

By 1978, stress and unwanted outside influences began to take their toll: both Perry and The Black Ark quickly fell into a state of disrepair. Eventually, the studio burned to the ground. Perry has constantly insisted that he burned the Black Ark himself in a fit of rage, but it was most likely an accident due to faulty wiring. After the demise of the Black Ark in the early 1980s, Perry spent time in England and the United States, performing live and making erratic records with a variety of collaborators. It was not until the late 1980s, when he began working with British producers Adrian Sherwood and Neil Fraser (who is better known as Mad Professor), that Perry's career began to get back on solid ground again. Perry also has attributed the recent resurgence of his creative muse to his deciding to quit drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis. Perry stated in an interview that he wanted to see if "it was the smoke making the music or Lee Perry making the music. I found out it was me and that I don't need to smoke."

Perry now lives in Switzerland with his wife Mireille and two children. Although he celebrated his 70th birthday in 2006, he continues recording and performing to enthusiastic audiences in Europe and North America. His modern music is a far cry from his reggae days in Jamaica; many now see Perry as more of a performance artist in several respects. In 2003, Perry won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with the album Jamaican E.T.. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Perry #100 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. More recently, he teamed up with a group of Swiss musicians and performed under the name Lee Perry and the White Belly Rats, and made a brief visit to the United States using the New York City based group Dub is A Weapon as his backing band. Currently there are two feature length movies made about his life and work: Volker Schaner's "Vision Of Paradise" and "The Upsetter" by filmmakers Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough.

With Bob Marley

After a conflict with Dodd in the late summer of 1970, Marley and his band teamed up with Lee "Scratch" Perry (who Marley had met when Perry was studio supervisor at Studio One) and his studio band, The Upsetters. Although the alliance lasted less than a year, they recorded what many consider The Wailers' finest work. Marley and Perry split after a dispute regarding the assignment of recording rights, but they would remain friends and work together again. The output of this 1970-1971 period was released on Soul Rebels (1970), Soul Revolution (1971), Soul Revolution Part II (1971), African Herbsman (1973) and Rasta Revolution (1974) on the Upsetter/Trojan label.



Early career

Black Ark era

Black Ark

Other albums

  • The Return of Pipecock Jackxon (1980)
  • Mystic Miracle Star (with the Majestics) (1982)
  • History, Mystery & Prophecy (1984)
  • Battle Of Armagideon (Millionaire Liquidator) (1986)
  • Time Boom X - De Devil Dead (with Dub Syndicate) (1987)
  • On the Wire (1988)
  • Satan Kicked the Bucket (with Bullwackie) (1988)
  • Chicken Scratch (1989)
  • Mystic Warrior (1989)
  • Mystic Warrior Dub (with Mad Professor) (1989)
  • From The Secret Laboratory (with Dub Syndicate) (1990)
  • Message From Yard (with Bullwackie) (1990)
  • Satan's Dub (with Bullwackie) (1990)
  • Lord God Muzik (1991)
  • Sounds From The Hotline (1991)
  • The Upsetter and The Beat (1992)
  • Excaliburman (1992)
  • Spiritual Healing (1994)
  • Black Ark Experryments (with Mad Professor) (1995)
  • Experryments at the Grass Roots of Dub (with Mad Professor) (1995)
  • Super Ape Inna Jungle (with Mad Professor) (1995)
  • Who Put The Voodoo Pon Reggae (with Mad Professor) (1996)
  • Dub Take The Voodoo Out Of Reggae (Mad Professor with Lee Perry) (1996)
  • Dub Fire (with Mad Professor) (1998)
  • The Original Super Ape (1998)
  • Son of Thunder (2000)
  • Jamaican E.T. (2002)
  • Earthman Skanking (2003)
  • Encore (2003)
  • Alien Starman (2003)
  • Panic in Babylon (2004)
  • Alive, more than ever (2006)
  • End of an American Dream (2007)


  • Chicken Scratch (produced by Coxsone Dodd) (1963-1966)
  • Reggae Greats: Lee "Scratch" Perry (1984)
  • Open The Gate (1989)
  • Upsetter Collection (1994)
  • Upsetters A Go Go (1995)
  • Introducing Lee Perry (1996)
  • Words Of My Mouth Vol.1 (The Producer Series) (1996)
  • Voodooism (Pressure Sounds) (1996)
  • Arkology (1997)
  • The Upsetter Shop Vol.1: Upsetter In Dub (1997)
  • Dry Acid (1998)
  • Lee Perry Arkive (1998)
  • Produced and Directed By The Upsetter (Pressure Sounds) (1998)
  • Lost Treasures of The Ark (1999)
  • Upsetter Shop Vol.2 1969-1973 (1999)
  • Words Of My Mouth Vol.2 (The Producer Series) (1999)
  • Words Of My Mouth Vol.3 (Live As One/The Producer Series) (2000)
  • Scratch Walking (2001)
  • Black Ark In Dub (2002)
  • Divine Madness ... Definitely (Pressure Sounds) (2002)
  • Dub Triptych (2000)
  • Trojan Upsetter Box Set (2002)
  • This is Ska and Reggae Roots (2005)
  • The Upsetter Selection - A Lee Perry Jukebox (2007)

Cameos and other appearances

  • Produced The Clash's single "Complete Control" (1977)
  • "The Only Alternative" on the compilation Roots Of Innovation - 15 And X Years On-U Sound (1994) by Dub Syndicate on On-U Sound label
  • "Dr. Lee, PhD" on the album Hello Nasty (1998) by Beastie Boys
  • Appears on two tracks on the album Whaa! (2005) by Zuco 103
  • Sampled on "Out of Space" on the album Experience (1992) by The Prodigy

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lee "Scratch" Perry" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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