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Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry: From Jamaican beaches to Swiss Alps

Lee "Scratch" Perry performing, with a Swiss flag on his jacket, in the UK in 2015 Ollie Millington/Getty Images

Legendary Jamaican reggae singer and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, who died on Sunday aged 85, lived in central Switzerland for the last 30 years of his life.

This content was published on August 30, 2021 - 17:28
swissinfo.ch/ts

Born into poverty, he moved to the Jamaican capital, Kingston, in the 1960s and became involved in the music scene there. His eccentric style took him to the top as a reggae producer, dominating the Jamaican music industry from his Black Ark studio.

Perhaps his greatest legacy is the influence he had on the sound of Bob Marley. Urged by Perry to take a more spiritual approach, Marley copied some of his vocal phrases, developed a new bass-dominated sound and began producing a series of songs that would make him an international star.

It all came to an abrupt end when a fire destroyed his studio. Perry moved to the US, then on to Amsterdam, London and finally Einsiedeln in Switzerland, where he married Mireille Campbell-Rüegg in 1991. The couple had two children.

In Einsiedeln Perry’s life and work found expression in, among other things, a 15-year documentary film project by director Volker Schaner. In The Vision Of Paradise Schaan accompanies Perry all over the world. Einsiedeln plays a major role in the film: the monastery of Einsiedeln, the Black Madonna, cows and mountains appear repeatedly.

In 2015 Perry’s recording studio in Switzerland was also damaged by fire – his “secret laboratory” had been destroyed again, he said at the time.

Despite spending the last 30 years of his life in Switzerland, he recently moved back to Jamaica. In January he wrote on Instagram that Switzerland was “too cold” and the “energy was bad”, saying he needed the sun of Jamaica.

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