Legendary reggae producer Edward Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee Sr has died.
Lee passed away Tuesday, between 1 and 2 pm, after suffering a cardiac arrest at an undisclosed hospital in the Corporate Area. The 79-year-old had been ailing for some time.
“The doctors said it was heart failure,” his widow Annette Wong-Lee confirmed to The Gleaner, adding that the family had spoken to an upbeat Lee twice that same morning.
“His son, Little Striker, had just left the hospital to get some food and also to give the medical staff time to change a catheter that had been giving him an infection. He called to find out if his father was back in his room and the nurse was crying. Then the doctor called and said come to the hospital immediately,” she added.
Edward Jr picked up his mother and a sibling and they all went to the hospital, only to hear that Striker Lee had died.
Wong-Lee said that she and her children are devastated at how the events unfolded.
“On Monday, the doctors told us that Striker would come home by Wednesday. All his vitals were fine. Even though he has a nurse, Little Striker is always with him at the hospital. On Monday, he combed his father’s hair and the nurse said, ‘Mr Lee, yuh have a good son,’ and Striker said, ‘Yuh mean I have a great son.’ Little Striker is bawling. He can’t stop crying,” Wong-Lee shared.
“It’s so sudden. Even the doctors said they didn’t see this one coming.”
Bunny Striker Lee was diabetic and had a number of ailments. He had been hospitalised for six weeks, then was discharged for four days, and then the family had to rush him back to the hospital.
Lee was one of the most seminal figures in reggae music. In addition to dub sides and instrumentals, Lee was among the first producers to realise the potential of reusing the same rhythm tracks with different singers and deejays, partly out of necessity. The latter half of the 1970s saw Lee working with some of Jamaica’s top new talent, including Linval Thompson, Leroy Smart, and Barry Brown.
He began his career working as a record plugger for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label in 1962, later performing the same duties for Leslie Kong. Lee then moved into producing records, his first hit record coming with Roy Shirley’s ‘Music Field’ on WIRL in 1967.
Lee then set up his own Lee’s label, the first release being Lloyd Jackson’s ‘Listen To The Beat’. He produced further hits during 1967 and 1968 by Lester Sterling and Stranger Cole, Derrick Morgan, Slim Smith and The Uniques (‘My Conversation’), Pat Kelly, and The Sensations, establishing him as one of Jamaica’s top producers.
Between 1969 and 1972, he produced classic hits including Slim Smith’s ‘Everybody Needs Love’, Max Romeo’s ‘Wet Dream’, Delroy Wilson’s ‘Better Must Come’, Eric Donaldson’s ‘Cherry Oh Baby’, and John Holt’s ‘Stick By Me’.
Lee was a pioneer of the United Kingdom reggae market, licensing his productions to the Palmer Brothers (Pama) and Trojan Records in the early 1970s.
In 1983, Lee produced the first album by future star Beenie Man, titled, ‘The Invincible Beany Man (The 10 Year Old D.J. Wonder)’.
In 2008 he was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government in recognition of his contribution to Jamaican music.
In 2013 a documentary film was released, ‘I Am The Gorgon – Bunny Striker Lee and the Roots of Reggae’, directed by Diggory Kenrick, telling the story of Lee’s life from childhood to the present, featuring U Roy, Dennis Alcapone, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Sly and Robbie, Johnny Clarke, John Holt and others.
In March 2015 a fire at Lee’s Gorgon Entertainment Studio destroyed equipment with a value estimated by Lee at JA$100 million.