Lee 'Scratch' Perry: The magician

My Jamaican 55

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Monday, July 17, 2017



This is the 35th in our daily entertainment series highlighting 55 Jamaicans who broke down barriers and helped put the country on the world stage. Each day one personality will be featured, culminating Independence Day, August 6.

In 1970, The Wailers tapped into national paranoia with Mr Brown, a song about a coffin doing the rounds with a crow on top screaming for Mr Brown.

Produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry, its eerie intro was one of the first examples of his genius. His unique approach to recording is responsible for some of reggae's greatest songs.

The eccentric, Hanover-born Perry also worked magic with Junior Byles ( Beat Down Babylon, Curly Locks), Max Romeo ( War Inna Babylon), Junior Murvin ( Police And Thieves) and The Congos, whose classic Heart of The Congos album he produced.

Most of the diminutive Perry's productions were done at the Black Ark, a 'haunted' studio he operated from the back of his home in Washington Gardens, Kingston. It attracted hot acts from the United Kingdom like The Clash, one of the punk movement's leaders, and singer Robert Palmer.

They were all dawn by Perry's erratic talent and ability to conjure different sounds. The Ark burned to the ground in the early 1980s and Perry moved to Europe, where he is treated like royalty to this day.

Perry, who recorded as an artiste in the late 1960s and 1970s, is in demand throughout that continent and parts of the United States. In 2004, the 81-year-old won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album for the aptly titled Jamaican E T.

He received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican Government in 2012.

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