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Music icon Chris Blackwell on how he met Bob Marley, travel

In terms of rock and roll, the London-born Chris Blackwell, 84, is a well-recognized title. Because the founding father of Island Data, the label he established in Jamaica in 1959 and England in 1962, Blackwell has propelled a protracted checklist of music icons into fame: Robert Palmer, Melissa Etheridge, The Cranberries, U2, Bob Marley and lots of extra.

Others know Blackwell because the patriarch of GoldenEye, writer Ian Fleming’s famed house the place he wrote all the James Bond novels — now a luxurious resort and superstar hideaway.

In actual fact, earlier than music, Blackwell received his skilled begin within the journey business greater than 4 many years in the past when he labored as a waterski teacher at Half Moon resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

He went on to personal and run properties in Miami and the Bahamas. He nonetheless runs Strawberry Hill, in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains and the Caves set on a clifftop in Negril, whereas splitting his time between the island and NYC.

Now, Blackwell’s storied profession working with the world’s most well-known artists is being chronicled in a memoir: “The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond” (out June 7 and available to pre-order now).

Blackwell, who’s a Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame inductee, spoke to The Publish about his ventures in hospitality and recording and discovering the celebs whose songs all of us sing out loud.


You’re know for GoldenEye however you’ve all the time labored Jamaica’s journey business?

The Island Data founder first got here to Jamaica as a teen.
Mark Sagliocco/GC Photographs

My cousin John Pringle opened Spherical Hill in Montego Hill within the Nineteen Fifties, which attracted an elite crowd instantly due to his huge community of associates. Noel Coward got here to remain, and so did the Kennedy household earlier than John turned president.

I used to be a teen on the time and so impressed by the entire arrange that I used to be impressed to get into motels.  I began by educating waterski classes to visitors at Half Moon, which was close to Spherical Hill. On the identical time, air journey to Jamaica picked up, and Montego Bay was turning into standard with vacationers. I beloved the power.

Isn’t it your lodge work that led to your music profession?

Sure. Bands would play on the eating places and bars on the weekends at each Spherical Hill and Half Moon, and I used to be drawn to their music, particularly jazz. One time a band from Bermuda got here to play at Half Moon that had a blind pianist. A few drinks in a single afternoon, I informed them that I wished to report them. I knew nothing about recording, however that was the rum speaking.

A couple of days later, we drove to Kingston, which was three hours away, and went to a recording studio. After that have, I began going to live shows and recording totally different Jamaican bands who I appreciated. That was the how Island Data started.

After devoting greater than 20 years to music and leaving motels behind, you dipped your toe again in once more within the early Eighties. Why?

Chris Blackwell at Compass Point (Bahamas) Studio with engineer Steven Stanley (far right).
Chris Blackwell at his Compass Level, Bahamas, studio with famend Jamaican audio engineer Steven Stanley (far proper).

I used to be going to Miami to fulfill a singer from Detroit and I used to be shocked at how run down all of the motels have been within the metropolis. I noticed this derelict lodge in Miami Seashore that was on the market and spontaneously determined to purchase it. I had simply met the style designer Barbara Hulanicki who was designing the costumes for this singer and requested her if she wished to do the interiors. She agreed. That property was referred to as the Marlin and among the many first good motels to open in Miami Seashore. I ended up shopping for and working seven extra properties there together with the Tides and the Leslie.

They thrived all through the 80s, however I ultimately turned annoyed with how issues ran: you needed to shut the properties each time a hurricane was within the forecast. I bought the motels and moved to the Bahamas the place I opened two motels in Nassau: Pink Sands and Compass Level.

I used to be nonetheless working Island Data, so I constructed a recording a studio there. Robert Palmer recorded his hit “Hooked on Love” in it.  

You continue to personal three motels in Jamaica. What makes them distinctive?

Exterior of the GoldenEye resort.
Blackwell’s GoldenEye resort was the onetime house of James Bond-creator Ian Fleming.
Christian Horan Pictures / is

Strawberry Hill is 3,100 ft up within the mountains and stunningly stunning. The Caves has simply 15 rooms and is true on the ocean in Negril. You possibly can soar from the cliffs there proper into the ocean.

GoldenEye is known for being Ian Fleming’s house and the place he wrote all of the James Bond books. The great thing about property is its simplicity. It has greater than 60 rooms and 4 totally different seashores and is one massive open area. There are not any corridors, and you are feeling very free.

You knew Fleming personally. The place did you meet him, and what was he like?

English writer Ian Fleming (1908 - 1964), best known for his James Bond novels, in his study at Goldeneye, his home in Saint Mary Parish, Jamaica.
Creator Ian Fleming and his canine at his GoldenEye property in 1964.
Harry Benson/Categorical/Getty Photographs

Fleming first got here to Jamaica within the late Nineteen Forties once I was round 9 or 10.  My uncle, who was a author for the native paper, met him by way of a mutual good friend, and the 2 of them turned shut associates. I used to be in boarding faculty in England however used to see him once I was house from faculty holidays.

He was very heat and really disciplined. He adopted the identical routine day by day: a protracted swim, then breakfast, then hours of writing whereas locked up in his bed room. He would emerge at 1:30 for lunch and return to extra writing.

You’re introduced so many stars to fame. Who’s essentially the most memorable?

It must be the primary particular person I found: Millie Small, who grew up on a sugar property in Jamaica. She had essentially the most distinctive high-pitched voice, and I introduced her over to England in 1964 to report “My Boy Lollipop.” It ended up being an enormous hit and made her very well-known.

Instantly, I catapulted from turning into the man who was working round London making an attempt to promote Jamaican music to the man who was in tv studios with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Inform us about discovering Bob Marley.

Chris Blackwell with (l-r) Junior Marvin, Bob Marley & Jacob Miller, en route to Brazil, 1980.
Blackwell with (left to proper) Junior Marvin, Bob Marley and Jacob Miller, en path to Brazil in 1980. Blackwell says he met Marley by probability in London after lending him a spot of money.

I used to be in London working when Bob Marley and the Wailers went to Scandinavia to report a film, nevertheless it fell by way of. They’d no tickets or cash to get again to Jamaica and ended up in London. A good friend requested me to assist them get house. I loaned them cash, and we immediately linked. They did a report for me, and that was the start.

What do motels and music have in widespread? 

Each industries are about leisure and assembly individuals.

Who stands out to you essentially the most amongst all of the rock stars you’ve met and why?

Perhaps Elton John. We met in London nicely earlier than he was well-known. He was essentially the most unbelievable songwriter however very shy. I made the error of considering that he wouldn’t be somebody who could be very robust on stage. I couldn’t have been extra unsuitable.

However among the many musicians I’ve labored with, I by no means received to know anybody too personally. I’m extra of a loner and most content material alone.

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