Lee Perry Biography

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Birth Name: Rainford Hugh Perry
Born: 1936/03/20
Birth Place: Kendal, Jamaica
Genres: Reggae, Dub, Ska, Rocksteady, Drum And Bass

Lee "Scratch" Perry (born Rainford Hugh Perry, March 20, 1936, Kendal, Jamaica) is a seminal Jamaican reggae producer noted for his innovative studio techniques and production values. Perry was one of the pioneers in the development of dub music with his early adoption of effects and remixing to create new instrumental or vocal versions of existing reggae tracks. Perry has worked with Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Murvin, The Congos and Max Romeo. He is a long time member of the Rastafari movement.

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 Amalgamated Records

Working with 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 major single “People Funny Boy,” which was an insult directed at Gibbs, sold 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 kind of sound which was given the name “Steppers”).

Similarly his acrimonious 1967 single as Lee “King” Perry, “Run for Cover,” was likewise aimed at Coxsone. 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 United Kingdom. He soon became known for his innovative production techniques as well as his eccentric character. In 1970 Perry produced and released The Wailers track “Mr Brown” with its unusual use of studio effects and eerie opening highlighting his unique approach to production.

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, Junior Murvin, The Heptones, The Congos 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. Virtually everything Perry recorded in The Black Ark was done using basic recording equipment; through sonic sleight-of-hand, Perry made it sound 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. 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.

His career took a new path in 1985 when he met Mark Downie (Marcus Downbeat) with whom he worked on the 1986 album “Battle Of Armagideon” for Trojan. It was not until the late 1980s, when he began working with British producers Adrian Sherwood and Neil Fraser (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. In 1998 Perry reached a wider global audience as vocalist on the track “Dr. Lee, PhD” from the Beastie Boys' album “Hello Nasty.”

In 2003, Perry won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with the album “Jamaican E.T.” More recently, he teamed up with a group of Swiss musicians and performed under the name Lee Perry and the White Belly Rats, and toured the United States in 2006 and 2007 using the New York City-based group Dub Is A Weapon as his backing band.

After meeting Andrew W.K. at SXSW in 2006, Perry invited him to co-produce his album “Repentance.” The album, released in August 2008 on Narnack Records, featured several guest artists including Moby, Ari Up, producer Don Fleming, drummer Brian Chippendale and bassist Josh Werner.

In 2008, Perry reunited with Adrian Sherwood on “The Mighty Upsetter.” Between 2007 and 2010, Perry recorded three albums with British producer, Steve Marshall. The albums featured performances by Keith Richards, and George Clinton. Two of these albums, 2008’s “End Of An American Dream,” and 2010’s “Revelation,” received Grammy nominations in the category Best Reggae Album.

In 2009, Perry collaborated with Dubblestandart, on their “Return from Planet Dub” double album, revisiting some of his material from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as collaborating on new material with Dubblestandart, some of which also included Ari Up of The Slits. In 2008 leading up to this release, Perry's first foray into the dubstep genre was released on 12-inch vinyl, a collaboration with Dubblestandart and New York City's Subatomic Sound System called “Iron Devil.” That record was followed by several more reggae oriented dubstep collaborations with Dubblestandart and Subatomic Sound System on digital and vinyl, first 2009’s “Blackboard Jungle Vols. 1 & 2,” which featured dancehall vocalist Jahdan Blakkamoore and 2010’s “Chrome Optimism,” which also featured American filmmaker David Lynch.

In 2011, he recorded “Rise Again” with bassist and producer Bill Laswell. The album featured contributions from Tunde Adebimpe, Sly Dunbar and Bernie Worrell, and was released on Laswell's M.O.D. Technologies label.

In 2012, Perry teamed with The Orb to produce “The Orbserver in the Star House,” which was recorded in Berlin over a period of several months. The album earned critical acclaim, and featured the single “Golden Clouds,” named after the historic property located near Perry’s hometown in Jamaica.





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