Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Lee "Scratch" Perry RIP

Perry sits on a throne with a crown on his head and holds a globe and a scepter in his hands.
The Upsetter
As others have commented, Lee "Scratch" Perry was so full of life and boundless, crazy genius-level creativity and talent that it seemed like he would be walking this Earth forever. So his death on Sunday, August 29, 2021 at 85 feels like a sucker punch to the head (forgive us for taking you for granted, "Scratch").

His musical legacy as producer, songwriter, dub master, and performer is almost unparalleled in the history of reggae music. And the vast body of work he leaves in his wake--surely a daunting endeavor to consume in its entirety--is a magnificent gift that will keep on giving to anyone exploring or rediscovering his music for eons to come (the 1997 3xCD compilation Arkology, which collects the top cuts he recorded at his Black Ark studio, is an amazing place to start).

I'm certainly not alone in thinking that Perry's greatest productions were The Congos' Heart of the Congos ("Children Crying" is one of the most brilliant reggae cuts ever recorded) and Max Romeo's War Ina Babylon (ditto for the title track). I'm also partial to The Upsetters' Super Ape (1976), Perry's Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Corn Bread (1978), and his collaboration with Adrian Sherwood and the Dub Syndicate Time Boom X De Devil Dead (1987).

I reviewed a fair number of Scratch's recent releases and reissues for this blog, which are linked below. While his output in his later years may not have matched the heights of the Black Ark years, it was still incredibly good and often extraordinary. All of these releases are worth checking out.

Lee "Scratch" Perry: Heavy Rain LP (2020)

Various Artists Black Ark Days: Play On Mr. Music LP (2020)

Max Romeo Revelation Time reissue (2020)

The Upsetters with Vin Gordon Musical Bones reissue (2020)

Lee "Scratch" Perry: Rainford LP (2019)

Lee "Scratch" Perry with Peaking Lights and Ivan Lee Life of the Plants EP (2019)

Lee "Scratch" Perry: "Big Ben Rock" 7" (2019)

Lee "Scratch" Perry: The Black Album LP (2018)

Lee "Scratch" Perry: Game of the Throne EP (2018)

Lee "Scratch" Perry and Subatomic Sound System: Super Ape Returns to Conquer LP (2017)

Various Artists: Sound System Scratch: Lee Perry's Dub Plate Mixes 1973-1979 LP (2010)

If you need a refresher on Perry's life and musical career, make sure to read the excellent Perry obituaries in The Guardian by Peter Mason and New York Times by Jon Pareles.

Play on, Mr. Music!

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