Chris Blackwell  

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Chris Blackwell (born June 22, 1937) is the founder of Island Records, Compass Point Studios and promoter of reggae music in the 1970s.


Born in London to an Irish father and a Costa Rican-born Sephardic Jewish mother, Blackwell spent his childhood in Jamaica. Record producer Joe Boyd's memoir of the 1960s, White Bicycles, then recounts that he was sent to England to complete his education. Deciding not to go to university, he dabbled in real estate and other businesses which brought him into contact with the UK's black Jamaican population. Hearing he was returning home, people asked him to bring back local records which were then not regularly imported.

Boyd goes on to explain how, after starting with vinyl Blackwell progressed to bringing in licenced master tapes and started Island Records. After a while he started signing white groups to the label, starting with the Spencer Davis Group.

Island became one of the hippest independent labels of the 1960s and 1970s with bands like Traffic and Fairport Convention and american artist Gavin Christopher. Chris Eventually Island moved into movies too but Blackwell's real coup lay in bringing Bob Marley and the Wailers to international audiences.

Each of his companies was eventually sold to Polygram. But Blackwell left with a reputation for looking after artists and as diverse as Bob Marley, U2, Cat Stevens, Steve Winwood, Melissa Etheridge, The Cranberries, Richard Thompson and PJ Harvey.

Since selling those companies, he has gone on to found Palm Pictures, a media entertainment company with music, film and DVD releases.

Blackwell is currently associated with Island Outpost, which operates or markets a group of high-end resorts in Jamaica. Goldeneye is among the most exclusive of these resorts, which is located at — and named after — the property previously owned by Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels.


Chris Blackwell's Island Records became the biggest label promoting Jamaican music to the international market. Due to affiliation with the record industry in the UK and First world funding, Island had the distribution to vastly increase exposure of reggae to the global pop market, especially in the UK where a significant population of Jamaican immigrants had relocated for economic opportunities not available at home. Blackwell's stable of artists included Millie Small, singer of the first major Jamaican music UK radio hit, 1964's "My Boy Lollipop".

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