Chris Blackwell, the legendary founder of Island Records, is to accept the A&R Icon award at the A&R Awards in central London tomorrow (Tuesday, November 8).
Blackwell will be presented with the award in front of more than 500 music industry executives, artists and entrepreneurs at the 2022 A&R Awards – a sold-out ceremony presented by MBW in association with Abbey Road Studios.
The list of artists Blackwell has worked with and supported throughout his musical life is nothing short of astonishing: From Bob Marley to U2, Steve Winwood, Cat Stevens, Grace Jones, Roxy Music, Nick Drake, John Martyn and, of course, Bob Marley.
(Blackwell didn’t just sign Bob Marley, but actually co-produced classic albums including Uprising, Natty Dread, Burnin’ and Catch A Fire.)
The A&R Awards will recognize both Blackwell’s extraordinary track record of artist development, as well as his lasting influence on the global music business – and on music itself.
Marking the release of Blackwell’s memoir, The Islander, earlier this year, Bono called him “an adventurer, an entrepreneur, a buccaneer, a visionary and a gentleman”; Grace Jones said he “knows how to get the very best out of people… he’s a mover and a shaker and a mischief-maker”.
Standout figures in today’s music business – including more than a few solid-gold legends – have now lined up to congratulate Blackwell on his A&R Icon accolade.
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award than Chris. What he did for the music world and reggae in particular is astounding. He is a pioneer.”
David Geffen told MBW: “I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award than Chris. What he did for the music world and reggae in particular is astounding. He is a pioneer.”
Jerry Moss said: “Chris Blackwell has nurtured the careers of some of the most interesting artists in the world.”
Richard Branson added: “Chris Blackwell had a profound influence on the music industry [and] helped develop some of the most legendary artists of our time. He challenged the music industry, and his contributions to it are immeasurable. To my lifelong dear friend – well done!”
Jimmy Iovine said: “A&R at its most potent is when someone can see something that isn’t mainstream, not have conceptual blindness and see it for what it could be.
“For Bob Marley alone that A&R instinct and vision of Chris Blackwell stands right alongside John Hammond’s signing of Bob Dylan.”
“I feel blessed and honored to call CB a friend, godfather and trusted keeper of my father’s legacy.”
Cedella Marley, Bob and Rita’s daughter and the CEO of the Bob Marley Group of Companies said: “A true visionary, supporting and investing in the longevity of the careers of so many amazing artists, I feel blessed and honored to call CB a friend, godfather and trusted keeper of my father’s legacy.”
Larry Mestel, the CEO of Primary Wave who worked under Island Records with Blackwell, said: “Chris Blackwell is a titan among titans in the music business. Virtually everything I’ve learned about the business and any meager success that I’ve had I can attribute to his tutelage.”
“Chris Blackwell challenged the music industry, and his contributions to it are immeasurable. To my lifelong dear friend – well done!””
Paul McGuinness, who managed U2 from 1978 through to 2010, said: “It was very hard to get a record deal for U2. All the majors had passed when Chris Blackwell at Island offered us a deal in 1980. In retrospect we were extremely fortunate to be with an independent label that gave the band time to develop. It took until the third album to have success on the charts though we were doing well on the road.
“The association with Island has always been cool. There has always been a lot of mutual respect between the label and the band. Their network of independent licensees taught me how the world works. We wanted to be big everywhere. When the label was sold to PolyGram [who became Universal] it was good to get the chance to infiltrate a big corporation. Chris remains a dear friend of mine and the guys in the band.”
Tim Clark, the co-founder of ie:music and another mentee of Blackwell’s at Island, said: “The most important lesson I learned from Chris: when you’ve found brilliant talent, stick with ‘em! And best advice he gave me? The signing of a contract is the first step in its renegotiation.”
And the artist Angélique Kidjo said of Blackwell: “The most important moment in my career was being discovered and signed by Chris Blackwell. He has this magic power to create a full vision around an artist: helping choose the songs, make sure they are properly produced and that the artwork is memorable. Not only does he love music but he also loves the artists themselves for who they are. He was like a second father for me.
“I felt that commercial success was not the ultimate goal for him. Making amazing and meaningful music was the Holy Grail. He supported me throughout the years. When I was recording for him, I wanted to push my boundaries. That may sound naïve but I wanted him to be proud of me!”
The A&R Icon award is supported by YouTube Music.Music Business Worldwide