Full Coverage
By Norman Munroe
Entertainment editor
Monday, February 24, 2003
Jamaica Observer

(Photo courtesy of Roy Sweetland)

Reggae pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry, is the latest reggae artiste to win the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. At the same time, there was some measure of recognition for deejay Bounti Killa, as Hey Baby Hey, the single on which he collaborated with US group No Doubt, was named Best Pop vocal performance by a duo or group.

The announcements were made at the 45th annual Grammy Awards ceremony, held in New York last night.
In their acceptance speech, No Doubt thanked producers Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, as well as Boiunty Killa for their contributions to the project.
The eccentric Perry, who has nonetheless been a seminal figure in the development of Jamaican music since the 1960s, was honoured for his album, Jamaican ET, released by British label, Trojan.
The other nominees for the Reggae Grammy were deejays Bounti Killa and Capleton, singer Freddy McGregor and Ivory Coast reggae star Alpha Blondy.

Up until just before 7:00 pm, there was no news of who had won the award, but word gradually filtered through that Perry had, in fact, netted the coveted trophy. Perry, who now lives in Switzerland, did not attend the event, and was unable to be reached for his reaction. In fact, the Observer understands that only one of the nominees, McGregor, attended the ceremony held at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Local music industry watchers and persons involved in the industry have hailed Perry’s victory as just recognition for his monumental accomplishments, if not for the particular album.

Jamaica Federation of Musicians (JFM) president Desi Young, while acknowledging his unfamiliarity with the specific album, said that Perry richly deserved the honour, as just reward for his long and significant contribution to Jamaican music.
“Lee Perry is a hard campaigner for the music, Jamaica music, over the years and is a man that I have known and dealt with over the years. I don’t know the album he got selected for but, congratulations to him and [to] the other nominees, try again. It is a great achievement to have been nominated….Congrats to Lee Perry, it is deserving for the work that he has done over the years…People like Lee “Scratch” Perry, deserve that recognition,” The JFM head told the Observer.

Music producer Mikey Bennett, in a slight dig at the media, said that the resurgence to the fore of Perry and others of his vintage “would hopefully urge media in Jamaica to do some research”, in order to introduce Perry and other early seminal figures in Jamaican music history “to Jamaican youngsters who probably don’t even know who Lee “Scratch” Perry is.
“…Reinvent him and bring him back to the forefront, to [remind them] of the stuff that he did with Bob Marley and stuff. Him was a pioneer, he was not afraid to try.. things. It’s unfortunate again that we have to rely on external forces to bring our own pioneers to the forefront but if that’s the way dem have to come, that’s the way dem have to come. I’m happy for the oldsters I guess, without taking anything away from those youngsters,” Bennett said.

Perry began his career in the late 1950s, as an employee of another legendary figure, pioneering producer, Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd’s famed Studio One, as a record scout, organizing recording sessions and later supervising these sessions and auditions at Dodd’s studios, then located on Orange Street in Downtown Kingston. By 1963, in addition to handling output for Delroy Wilson, Perry had released his first vocal record, backed by The Skatalites. By the mid 60s Perry had moved on to working with a number of other producers, like Joe Gibbs, JJ Johnson, and Clancy Eccles. In 1968, he recorded one of his big hits, People Funny, Boy, which recently was used as the title of a biography of him. In 1968, too, Perry set up his Upsetter label and produced hit records for people like David Isaacs and The Untouchables.

Return of Django, tenor saxophonist Val Bennett’s spaghetti-western inspired title, gave Perry his first taste of UK chart success, spending three weeks at Number 5 during 1969.
Around this time, Perry began to produce The Wailers, on a series of recordings including Small Axe, Duppy Conqueror and Soul Rebel. It is said that Bob Marley regarded Perry, who he described as “a genius”, as his favourite producer. A steady stream of hits for a wide variety of top Jamaican artistes, as well as his own instrumental albums, flowed through the 1970s, both before and after he opened his legendary Black Ark Studios in 1974. A partial reading of the list of artistes who collaborated with him during this period, includes the likes of Junior Byles, Augustus Pablo, The Heptones, Max Romeo, Junior Murvin and Prince Jazzbo
A respected innovator, Perry was experimenting with dub, overdubbing, sampling and other techniques as far back as the late 1960s and early 1970s and in fact, Jamaican ET, employs all these techniques.
By the end of the 1980s, however, commercial successes were becoming more and more infrequent, as he failed to keep pace with changes in mainstream reggae. Perhaps out of frustration, Perry’s mental state also began to deteriorate. In 1980, he burnt his legendary Black Ark Studios to the ground and left for England. He has continued to record over the years, although his output has been completely outside the scope of mainstream reggae. His work, however, is revered by many and his dub stylings have long influenced many artistes, both within and outside the genre.

IRIE FM disc jockey and well known vintage music connoisseur Bob Clarke told the Observer, that Perry “has always been very very innovative in the Jamaican music industry.”
“He always did things that were different. For him to have won the Grammy is a testimony to where the music should be going. And we would love to see the others who are in the business today [try to emulate him]…With all that they might have said about him, he tried to remain creative and that is testimony to the fact that the world needs to get the best out of Jamaica. The music that they’re getting out of Jamaica is not exactly what they need to get, and we need to get back to the foundation,” Clarke said.
Ibo Cooper, respected musician and former Third World keyboard player, said Perry’s award “is worthy and mi feel good because is long time im into it and is full time im get what he deserves. For everything start from scratch”.

 

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