WHEN the Music Business Worldwide (MBW) A&R Awards are handed out today at London’s Abbey Road Studios, Chris Blackwell, legendary co-founder of Island Records, might be readily available to just accept the A&R Icon award.
Blackwell might be presented with the award in front of greater than 500 music industry executives, artistes and entrepreneurs.
The UK-focused awards are made up of a combination of independent and major professionals across labels, management and publishing. The awards, that are divided into three category groups, might be judged on a mixture of business, critical and inventive achievement.
Blackwell has worked with and supported several acts over his illustrious decades-long profession. They include Bob Marley, U2, Steve Winwood, Cat Stevens, Grace Jones, Roxy Music, Nick Drake, John Martyn and, Toots and the Maytals and Millie Small.
Except for signing Marley to his Island Records label, Blackwell co-produced classic albums including Rebellion, Natty Dread, Burnin, and Catch a Fire.
The A&R Awards will recognise each Blackwell’s extraordinary track record of artiste development, in addition to his lasting influence on the worldwide music business – and on music itself.
In an interview with the Music Business Worldwide website Jamaican singer Grace Jones said Blackwell “knows methods to get the highest out of individuals… he’s a mover and a shaker and a mischief-maker”.
Leading figures from the music industry have congratulated Blackwell on his A&R Icon accolade.
David Geffen told MBW: “I cannot consider anyone more deserving of this award than Chris. What he did for the music world and reggae particularly is astounding. He’s a pioneer.”
Richard Branson added: “Chris Blackwell had a profound influence on the music industry [and] helped develop a few 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!”
Cedella Marley, Bob and Rita’s daughter and the CEO of the Bob Marley Group of Firms, said: “A real visionary, supporting and investing within the longevity of the careers of so many amazing artists, I feel blessed and honoured to call CB a friend, godfather and trusted keeper of my father’s legacy.”
Paul McGuinness, who managed U2 from 1978 through to 2010, said: “It was very hard to get a record deal for U2. All of the majors had passed when Chris Blackwell at Island offered us a deal in 1980. On reflection 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 at all times been cool. There has at all times been quite a lot of mutual respect between the label and the band. Their network of independent licencees taught me how the world works. We desired to be big in all places. When the label was sold to PolyGram [which became Universal] it was good to get the prospect to infiltrate a giant corporation. Chris stays an expensive friend of mine and the fellows within the band,” he continued.
In 2004, the Order of Jamaica — Jamaica’s fifth-highest honour — was bestowed upon Blackwell for philanthropy and outstanding contribution to the entertainment industry.