Fifty years ago, Chris Blackwell co-founded a little record label in Jamaica with money he made from Millie Small’s hit “My Boy Lollipop.” What a difference half a century makes.
Blackwell’s intention was simple and straightforward, expose the world to the music of the islands.
"When I recorded Lance Hayward at the Half Moon in 1959 at Federal Records Studio in Kingston, Jamaica, I had no inkling what path this had set me on," Blackwell told Mojo Magazine. "It has been an honour and a privilege to work with some of the greatest musical artists of all time.
“It was always my intention at Island to make records that stood the test of time, and I'm proud that Island is still a potent force in music 50 years since that first release.”
Over the last five decades, Blackwell’s Island Records, which in its heydey was the largest and most successful indie label ever, has given the world music by artists like U2, Art of Noise, Bad Company, Burning Spear, Julian Cope, Nick Drake, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Roxy Music and, perhaps most famously, Bob Marley.
To celebrate the anniversary, Island is having a blowout party in London this week, with participation from its past and present stars.
The party got launched in style with a performance by none other than Grace Jones, without a doubt one of Island’s most colorful and unique artists.
The BBC reports:
The singing powerhouse stalked on stage at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire for a two song set which included her ’80s hit “Pull Up to the Bumper.”
Jones shared the bill with a crop of Island artists, which included Sly & Robbie, Aswad, The I-Threes, Tinchy Stryder, Kid Creole & The Coconuts and VV Brown.
Commanding the space, the 62-year-old towered above the gathered crowd on a purpose built platform in a black leotard, leaving Madonna’s recent efforts firmly in the shade.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing Grace Jones live – and if you did you probably had to wait two or three hours after the show was scheduled to start to do it – you’ll be able to picture exactly what went on.
If you haven’t, check out this video for “Williams' Blood,” a track from Hurricane, Jones’ first album in 20 years, which features footage of her performing live.
Other acts who’ve taken part in the celebration this week include The Fratellis, Bombay Bicycle Club, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Baaba Maal, Paul Weller, Ernest Ranglin and Spooky Tooth.
Upcoming shows feature sets by Keane, Tom Tom Club, Ladyhawke, Amy Winehouse, Toots & The Maytals and I Blame Coco.
Read BBC’s complete blow-by-blow of the opening night party of Island’s 50th birthday bash here.