In the vein of Sound Man and The Soundtrack of My Life, a lyrical memoir from the founder of one of the greatest music labels of all time, Island Records, about his astonishing life and career helping to bring reggae music to the world stage and working with Bob Marley, U2, Grace Jones, Cat Stevens, and many other icons.
Since its founding in 1959, Island Records has been home to legendary artists representing wildly divergent musical styles, yet who share the same maverick, outsider spirit of its founder, Chris Blackwell. Time and again, Blackwell and his Island cohorts identified and nurtured musicians overlooked by other labels, including Bob Marley, U2, Cat Stevens, Grace Jones, Roxy Music, Traffic, Nick Drake, Tom Waits, Robert Palmer, Free, the B-52’s, John Martyn, and Jimmy Cliff.
Like these artists, Blackwell never took the conventional route. After a privileged early childhood in Jamaica—crossing paths with Ian Fleming, Noël Coward, and Errol Flynn—he was expelled from the elite British school Harrow for rebellious behavior at age seventeen. Within five years, he had moved back to Jamaica, and founded Island.
Intertwined with the story of Island is that of Bob Marley and the Wailers. After an impromptu meeting with the band in 1972, Blackwell produced the groundbreaking album Catch a Fire, formed a deep bond of mutual trust and friendship with Marley, and became known for helping to bring reggae music to the world stage. He also opened the first Jamaican boutique hotel, on the property of Ian Fleming’s former home, GoldenEye, where all the James Bond books were written.
This engaging memoir from one of the great raconteurs of the late 20th century makes for a giddy ride through some of that era’s most cutting-edge, enduring music. As Bono says, Blackwell “is an adventurer, an entrepreneur, a buccaneer, a visionary, and a gentleman.”