Chris Blackwell

Chris Blackwell
Birth nameChristopher Percy Gordon Blackwell
Born (1937-06-22) 22 June 1937 (age 82)
Westminster, London, England, UK
GenresRock, reggae
Occupation(s)Record producer
Years active1959–present

Christopher Percy Gordon Blackwell (born 22 June 1937) is an English businessman and former record producer, and the founder of Island Records, which has been called "one of Britain's great independent labels".[1] According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to which Blackwell was inducted in 2001, he is “the single person most responsible for turning the world on to reggae music."[2]

Forming Island Records in Jamaica on 22 May 1959, not quite aged 22, Blackwell was among the first to record the Jamaican popular music that eventually became known as ska. Returning to Britain in 1962, he sold records from the back of his car to the Jamaican community.[1]

Backed by Stanley Borden from RKO, Blackwell's business and reach grew substantially, and he went on to forge the careers of Bob Marley, Grace Jones and U2 amongst many other diverse high-profile acts. He has produced many seminal albums, including Marley's Catch A Fire and Uprising,[3] and The B-52's' self-titled debut album in 1979.


Blackwell was born in Westminster on 22 June 1937, the son of Joseph Blackwell, a member of the family responsible for the Crosse & Blackwell brand, and Blanche Lindo Blackwell, a Costa Rican-born Jamaican heiress.[1] The family moved to Jamaica soon after his birth where his father became a major in the Jamaica Regiment.[3] Though his mother's family, the Lindos, were of Sephardic Jewish heritage, originally from Spain, the family adopted Christianity and became New Christians.[2][4][3] His parents divorced when he was 12 years old.

Blackwell spent his childhood in Jamaica, and was sent to Britain to continue his education at Harrow.[5] Deciding not to attend university, he returned to Jamaica to become aide-de-camp to Jamaica's Governor, Sir Hugh Foot. After Foot was transferred to Cyprus, Blackwell left King's House to pursue a career in real estate and other businesses, including managing jukeboxes up and down the country, which brought him into contact with the Jamaican music community.[1]

In 1958, Blackwell was sailing off Hellshire Beach when his boat ran aground on a coral reef. The twenty-one-year-old swam to the coast and attempted to find help along the shore in searing temperatures. Collapsing on the beach, Blackwell was rescued by Rasta fishermen who tended his wounds and restored him back to health with traditional Ital food. The experience gave Blackwell a spiritual introduction to Rastafarianism, and was a key to his connection to the culture and its music.[3]

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