Awards 2016 Winner

World Pioneer Award: 2016 Winner

Chris Blackwell

Island Records' founder Chris Blackwell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 for having discovered and signed Jethro Tull, Free, Roxy Music, Grace Jones and U2 among numerous other rock legends. But his citation also described him as ‘the person most responsible for turning the world on to reggae music’ and it is for his incalculable contribution to promoting Jamaican and African artists for which he is honoured here.

Chris Blackwell
© Island Outpost Images/
David Yellen

He launched Island Records in Jamaica in 1958 and was soon exporting early ska recordings to the UK, topping the charts in 1964 with Millie Small's ‘My Boy Lollipop’, arguably the first ‘world music’ crossover hit.

His signing of Bob Marley & The Wailers in 1973 was a seminal moment and he then went on to introduce Nigeria's King Sunny Ade to an international audience.

After selling Island he established the Mango and Palm Pictures imprints with a stellar roster that included Salif Keita, Baaba Maal and Angelique Kidjo.

Blackwell's 80th birthday next year is certain to prompt a host of industry tributes that will inevitably concentrate on his rock'n'roll triumphs - hence our decision to recognise separately his immense contribution to world music by making him the inaugural recipient of the Songlines World Pioneer Award.

By Nigel Williamson