Lee Scratch Perry’s legendary Black Ark Recording Studio, which he admitted to burning to the ground back in 1979, is to be celebrated in art, in the cottages being constructed at the late singer/producer’s new off-the-grid community in his native Hanover.
A call was made yesterday for interested artists to apply to make replicas of the Black Ark’s artwork, which has been described in a critique of the book Black Ark with Lee “Scratch” Perry (1936–2021), as a continuously evolving mural paintings and drawings, as well as shape-shifting assemblages of records, instruments, found objects, posters, newspaper and magazine clippings, and appropriated books”.
“ATTENTION ❗️❗️❗️ Right now we need talented artists to produce ART similar like at Lee’s BLACK ARK STUDIO and Lee’s portraits, on the walls of £$P Paradise community cottages!” the message read.
Scratch had built the backyard studio in Kingston in 1973 and named it The Black Ark.
The studio birthed numerous Reggae and Dub classics, and, in its heydays, attracted famous Reggae artists such as Junior Murvin, Max Romeo, as well as Bob Marley and the Wailers, who recorded some of their greatest hits there, among them their best early recordings, such as Soul Rebel and Soul Revolution albums and Small Axe, Duppy Conqueror, Jah Live, Punky Reggae Party, and Rastaman Live Up.
The Black Ark recording studio also accommodated top British artists such as Paul McCartney, Wings and The Clash, before Perry ignited it, in what reports over the decades have recounted as during a fit of rage, which brought to an end a critical period in the history of dub music.
In March 2016, The Star tabloid reported that the Chase the Devil singer had admitted to deliberately burning studio in back in 1979, and had told The Guardian newspaper that he did not regret his actions, as there was some bad energy inside it that needed to come out.
In responding to the question as to whether he “ever regretted burning down Black Ark Studios, which had been where you made many of your greatest recordings,” Scratch had replied in the negative.
“No. There was some bad energy because my intention was to help poor people and most of the people were in poverty. So I was taking their poverty and giving them my energy, but they remained poor. All I wanted to take from them was their demons… Burning up the studio was a way of burning the demon, burning up the bad luck that had come to the people who lived in Jamaica. There is a Jewish saying that if you don’t burn the demon, maybe you die instead of him,” Perry had explained.
He had also said that his decision to raze the studio worked out favourably for him, when he was asked whether or not his method worked, “given his success following the incident”.
“Yeah, yeah. I didn’t regret nothing because it worked perfectly, the way God planned it,” he had affirmed.
Lee was the recipient of one Grammy Award and four nominations during his illustrious 60-year music career.
His first Grammy win was back in 2002 with Jamaican E.T. He also received nominations in 2014 for Back on the Controls; in 2010 with Revelation; in 2008 with Repentance and in 2007 with The End Of An American Dream.
In December 2019, he released Heavy Rain, a 12-track album which debuted at number one on the Billboard Reggae Albums Charts. It became his first number one album in his 60-year career, and made him, then 83, the oldest artist to top the tables.
Up to the time of his death in August 2021, he was still recording music, and oftentimes shared videos of himself at a studio in Green Island, Hanover.
Destiny, a posthumous album recorded before Perry died in 2021, is set for release on September 8 via Delicious Vinyl Island. Produced by Bob Riddim, the nine-track album will feature Kabaka Pyramid, Wayne J, Blvk H3ro, Leno Banton, and Yaadcore, among others.