Christopher Blackwell is an English businessman and record producer; he was born on the 22nd of June 1937, the founder of Island Records. 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.
Forming Island Records in Jamaica on 22 May 1959 aged 22; Blackwell was amongst 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.
Blackwell was born in England but spent most of childhood in England. He was sent to Britain to further his education, deciding not to attend university, he returned to Jamaica to become ADC to the Governor of Jamaica 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. In 1961, Blackwell acted as a location scout and production assistant for the 1962 Bond film Dr No.
After the movie wrapped, producer Harry Saltzman offered him a full-time position. Conflicted between music and film, Blackwell visited a psychic, who told him that he would be successful if he stayed in the music industry.
In 2003, Blackwell launched the Goldeneye Film Festival, which ran for 3 years. In September that year, Blackwell received the coveted Jamaican Musgrave Medal, awarded to Jamaicans who excel in the arts, music and public service. In 2004, the Order of Jamaica was bestowed upon Blackwell for philanthropy and outstanding contribution to the entertainment industry.
Blackwell’s most lasting influence on modern popular music resulted from his Jamaican roots and familiarity with the Caribbean musical heritage. Starting with The Wailers’ innovative Catch a Fire album (which featured a Zippo lighter-shaped album cover), Island Records introduced the world at large to Bob Marley and reggae music.
Artists such as Toots and the Maytals, Burning Spear, Third World and Black Uhuru not only added a multicultural component to pop music but also had lasting influence on Island Records label mates and recording artists worldwide.
Blackwell backed his first film project in 1971, The Harder They Come, starring singer Jimmy Cliff. In 1981, he produced Countryman, which broke all Jamaican box office records.
In 1983, Blackwell formed Island Alive, the film production and Distribution Company responsible for Kiss of the Spiderwoman, which won a Best Actor Oscar for William Hurt and The Trip to Bountiful, for which Geraldine Page earned a Best Actress Oscar.
By the end of the Eighties, Blackwell sold his stake in Island for $300 million and shifted into the hotel business, first in Miami and then in Jamaica, where he currently owns several properties.
Goldeneye, where he’s dining tonight, once belonged to Ian Fleming, who wrote all the James Bond novels here, having purchased the 15 remote acres, including a decommissioned donkey racetrack, in 1946. Chris Blackwell is among the most successful independent entrepreneurs in pop music history.