Island was founded in July, 1959 by Chris Blackwell, Graeme Goodall, and Leslie Kong in Jamaica, with a particular focus on music and artists emerging in the Caribbean.
The label’s first big success story was the track My Boy Lollipop, recorded by Jamaican teenager Millie Small, which became a No.2 hit for Island in the UK in 1964, and a No.1 in the Republic Of Ireland. (Small’s My Boy Lollipop also reached No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100, via Smash Records.)
In 1962, London-born Blackwell moved back to the UK, and began building Island into a label famed for importing Jamaican music into the market.
From there, Blackwell began signing local acts in Britain in the sixties, including the likes of John Martyn, Fairport Convention and Free, and later, Roxy Music, King Crimson, Sparks, Traffic, Cat Stevens and Steve Winwood.
Island kept up its close association with Jamaican reggae music through signings such as Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff and, perhaps the quintessential Island Records act, Bob Marley.
Marley initially signed to Island as part of The Wailers, whose first album for the label, Catch a Fire, was released in April 1973.
After The Wailers disbanded in 1974, Marley recorded a string of classic records for Island as ‘Bob Marley & The Wailers’, including 1977’s Exodus, 1978’s Kaya and 1980’s Uprising.
After Marley’s death in 1981, some thought the label would flounder, but Island’s next huge global act was already in its ranks: U2, who signed to Island in March 1980, went on to help define the next few decades of the company.
Chris Blackwell sold Island Records (alongside publishing company Island Music) in July 1989 to the UK-based PolyGram Group, which paid £180 million (US$300 million) for the firms.
PolyGram would later become merged into Universal Music Group, after Seagram acquired the UK-based company for $10.6bn in 1998.
Today, Island Records artists include the likes of Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes, Mike Posner, Jessie Reyez and Sigrid.
Island Records UK, based in London, is part of Universal Music UK, and is currently led by President Louis Bloom.Music Business Worldwide